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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered



  1. Great read! I’ve followed the Portland program for years. Even created my own version here re in Edmonton (Glenora) of all places.

    We’re currently working Tegan and Paul at RedBrick so there’s something on the horizon for you and a lot others who are looking for solutions.

    Louis Pereira :: thirdstone inc [^]

  2. Thanks, Louis! I’m a big fan of your pad, it is absolutely stunning and the gold standard for narrow lot design in Edmo. I am delighted to hear that you have another development on the horizon

  3. Nicely written. As a native Edmontonian who relocated back here after 10 years in Vancouver, I definitely echo the sentiments about lack of variety and bad taste in reno’s when I was house hunting.

    One thing I will add to this discussion is the need for better provisions for mixed-use zoning in both mature and new neighbourhoods in Edmonton. In other cities including Vancouver, London, and Toronto; small scale commercial opportunities like cafe’s, pubs, and boutique grocers exist at corners and mid-block right in the middle of what are otherwise residential only areas. Some of them are purpose built but many of them are houses that have been converted or have made shopfront additions at the front yard. Many of them actually pre-date zoning ordinances and could not be built today, even though they are what people love most about the neighbourhood!

    These types of walkable small scale retail opportunities are found largely charming and are always sought after places to live near. When I came back I was seeking this out in Edmonton, but found it lacking. Parkallen is an example and exception.

  4. I totally agree Jason, quality neighbourhood retail opportunities are critical for the development of neighbourhoods that are desirable for more than their economic prestige. Many of the Edmonton’s early 1950s areas sport corner store type sites which morphed into hellish car-centric retail favelas as housing tracts of the 60s and 70s were laid (I’m looking at you, Blue Quill).

    At this point I feel like it’s a mixture of developers unwilling to take risk on anything but car-centric uses and lessees, and a population that forgot how to walk to a corner store. In many cases strip malls in this city are built under the same zoning as one might find a office/retail building on Whyte Avenue. Those regulations rarely impose minimums on what must be built, and almost always accommodate the car-oriented model

  5. I honestly think infill is the future of Edmonton. We are currently in the early stages of this phenomenon. It seems to me like there is so much talk around this issue lately and in theory that is great. However while the City administrators are all talking a good game, in reality getting things done i.e. permits, etc is extremely difficult and time consuming and god help you if you are trying to get creative with zoning or trying to have things relaxed. I don’t know what the solution is but I am all for something, anything that makes this easier and less expensive.

  6. Unfortunately the City does not value or promote development of these walkable / neighborhood commercial areas. They have missed the opportunity to develop 99st north of Whyte with ground floor commercial and closer to home, permitted the rezoning of a 1950’s community commercial strip mall to a condo with no retail component. (Bentley project by Yorkton Group)

  7. Mixed/commercial developments are indeed lacking. While the knee-jerk response is to blame regulations, most standard zones are tremendously supportive of pedestrian oriented buildings within neighbourhoods. It is up to the private sector to design and build, however, and they will only ever build what support by lending institutions who make decisions based on risk…I don’t think Subway restaurants bounce too many rent cheques. Financing decisions always come down to risk, which makes it pretty difficult to see beyond the generic car-centric approach that has dominated new and old neighbourhoods for too long.

    I think the questions to ask are what sort of planning interventions might promote better commercial development, at what point would the development industry push back against minimum standards, and what kind of buildings are lending institutions more willing to finance? Can entrepreneurs and community members make small-scale community businesses viable with a change in built form?

  8. i want to see funky townhouses being built downtown and not the drab, clapboard crap that this city seems to love to slap up! i love the two pictures from Portland….they are great looking and funky. the picture above those is the drab and bland i’d like to see this city avoid building….anywhere!