Edmonton councillor concerned about pace, affordability of Blatchford development

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Edmonton councillor concerned about pace, affordability of Blatchford development
WATCH ABOVE: It's supposed to be Edmonton's signature green neighbourhood but the development of Blatchford has sputtered. Construction on the old City Centre Airport lands is nowhere near where the city projected and it comes at a cost to taxpayers. Kendra Slugoski has more – May 10, 2022

Edmonton’s Blatchford community has been touted as a signature neighbourhood, but one councillor is concerned about the pace and affordability of the development so far.

pihêsiwin Councillor Tim Cartmell said the city has spent about $232 million on the development so far and just 32 homes have been built. By this time, the city had expected that about 2,700 homes would be built.

“We talking about a development that was to be our signature development, to be that 15-minute neighbourhood, to be that place where anyone could affordably get into a home in a community that is meeting our ecological goals and responsibilities, that speaks to employment and education and entertainment and amenities all within 15 minutes of your door, to be served by mass transit,” Cartmell said Monday.

“Big audacious goals and right now there are 32 residences connected to a district utility.

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“I don’t think that we’ve delivered at the pace that we suggested we would, and there’s not an affordability piece to that yet.”

The development at the old City Centre Airport lands aims to use 100 per cent renewable energy and be carbon neutral. The first 11 families moved into their homes in the north Edmonton neighbourhood in May of last year.

Cartmell understands delays are to be expected and doesn’t believe the city was too ambitious, but said it’s time to pick up the pace.

“We can’t afford to keep dumping tens of millions of dollars into Blatchford in the hope that development one day comes. We need to do more to bring it to pace,” he said.

“It’s not a matter of kicking the city out or doing something different or changing our goals or aspiration, it’s: how do we start meeting these things much more quickly? And start extracting the value out of that property that we’ve invested in it.”

Click to play video: 'First show home opens in Edmonton’s Blatchford neighbourhood'
First show home opens in Edmonton’s Blatchford neighbourhood

The councillor believes now may be the time to look at selling land at lower-than-market rates to incentivize development. He believes the city should also be open to partnerships with private development.

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“If we can de-risk some of the development by lowering the land cost, then we might see more uptake, more pickup and frankly, more homes that are more affordable to those that are seeking them out,” he said.

“I think, frankly, it was a big audacious goal and perhaps unrealistic expectations were allowed to exist that development would happen quickly instead of happening at a more deliberate pace. I think the process got interrupted as notions evolved as to what it was going to look like and where it was going to go.

“And that’s fine, frankly, that it’s been a little bit slow but the question is: is it going to continue to be slow? Is this going to continue at this pace or can we accelerate it? And I want to accelerate it.”

The district energy utility is also expensive. It is supposed to be hooked up to run all the homes and businesses in Blatchford. Cartmell said that may have to be scaled back as well, adding it seems to be a hindrance rather than an incentive to developers.

— With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News.

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