Edmonton’s core experiencing unprecedented residential growth: study

A new study by The Downtown Business Association shows Edmonton's core is experiencing unprecedented residential growth, Thursday, August 29, 2013. Shannon Greer, Global News

Edmonton – The heart of Edmonton is experiencing unprecedented residential construction, according to a new study by The Downtown Business Association.

According to the report, the current population in Edmonton’s core has tripled to 13,000 from 1998 to the present. The city is estimated to collect an additional $8.8 million in tax revenue per year as a result of residential development in the area.

“When you see it cumulatively, you think ‘boy, we’ve come a long ways in downtown.’ And you don’t see it all because it’s scattered all over the downtown until you see it all put together on a list,” says Executive Director Jim Taylor, The Downtown Business Association.

The study focuses on the area from 111 Street to 105 Street and 105 Avenue to 97 Avenue.

The report shows 57 residential buildings have been constructed over the past 15 years, totaling over 5,000 new units. If current construction projects and proposed buildings are taken into account, the numbers add up to $1.7 billion in residential growth.

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“Most of these projects were built either on gravel parking lots or were buildings that were vacant like the Cambridge building and had been shut down for years and retro fitted in to residential,” says Taylor.

The Downtown Business Association hopes the growth continues. It wants to see more parking lots in the area converted to residential properties.

“I say somewhat with tongue-and-cheek, but I say I’ll be the happiest guy around when we have a real parking problem in downtown because it’ll mean everybody wants to be in the downtown and it’ll mean that we have all sorts of buildings built on the surfing parking lots,” explains Taylor.

Taylor isn’t concerned that could mean a considerable rise in the price of parking.

“I get phone calls from people saying ‘Well, if the parking goes up anymore and it’s more expensive, I’ll never come downtown.’ Well, maybe you’ll never come downtown, but the fact that the parking is expensive means that there’s a whole bunch of people coming downtown or it wouldn’t be that way.”

The Downtown Business Association believes the downtown arena and entertainment district will play a major role in providing amenities to the vastly growing population.

“There’ll be all kinds of people coming in to the sports and entertainment district and all of the restaurants and lounges and sports bars that open because of that.”

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Taylor adds zoning dictates new residential properties must be accompanied with street level retail properties.

“They come hand-and-hand. The people come with the high-rises. The stores come with the street level.”

The vacancy rate in the area is 1.2%, with the majority of downtown residents choosing to rent rather than own homes. It’s expected to stay low because of Edmonton’s stable economy and low unemployment.

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