A transformational City Plan for a changing Edmonton

Editor’s Note: On September 17, the City of Edmonton’s City Plan team presented a public update on its work to a committee of City Councillors. The report made news headlines with its ideas, among them the vision to build an east-west bridge of some kind over the North Saskatchewan River at 87 Avenue. The bridge is an apt metaphor. The City Plan itself is a kind of bridge. It will help bring into view and confidently deliver Edmontonians to the kind of future city they have said they want. For those interested, here’s a little more of the big picture on The City Plan.


 

There are a few fundamental questions behind the ideas shared and the plans planned and the things done at the City of Edmonton.

One is: how do we best use land in the city? What uses should land be put to?

Another is: how do people best move around and through the city?

And another is: what does best mean? In other words, how do decisions about land and transportation enhance the experience of living in Edmonton—for people?

Naturally, these are among the questions that also ignite debate in Edmonton’s municipal democracy.

Those questions about land and movement and experience are now front and centre in an initiative called The City Plan. The City Plan is a document required by the Province of Alberta that includes the Municipal Development Plan (that first question about land) and the Transportation Master Plan (that second question about movement over it).

No, The City Plan not just for policy wonks. 🤔

It’s for community builders, too. The City Plan is a people-centered plan that charts how Edmonton will get to a future city of two million people that maintains the benefits Edmontonians enjoy today. It is a tool to help create the kind of city Edmontonians have asked for.

The City Plan is for dot-connecting realists, too.

If we want to be a healthy city, a city of urban places, a climate-resilient city and a city in a prosperous region—and those are the goals outlined in Edmonton’s strategic plan, ConnectEdmonton—what are the choices we have to make to bring that vision down to earth, inside Edmonton’s boundaries? How do we think big and make it happen?

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On September 17, The City Plan team presented a public update on its work to City Council’s Urban Planning Committee. The team framed the kinds of choices our community will confront to achieve its goals as the city grows.

At the committee meeting, Mayor Don Iveson said The City Plan is, in its success in describing Edmontonians’ shared aspirations for the city and its laying out a plan for responsible growth, tracking in the right direction.

“It’s part of the character of this place that we want to see people succeed” ~ Mayor Don Iveson   

“It’s part of the character of this place that we want to see people succeed,” Iveson said. “I think that is why cities exist, why human beings came up with the idea 5- or 6,000 years ago to start banding together and building things together and multiplying our effort and impact.”

Recommendations in The City Plan include focusing future development within existing communities, putting more emphasis on mass transit and cycling options, expanding the network of open spaces and prioritizing development in key areas of the city.

Please read the report (Item 6.2). Share its findings and suggestions with your networks. Find what resonates with you. The report is not the final City Plan. What exists now is the result of extensive public engagement and technical analysis. The plan will go to a public hearing next year and then a final decision on its shape will be made by City Council.

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Edmonton’s population will take decades to grow to two million people, but the decisions made today will help or hinder that transition. The City Plan won’t change anything overnight. The City Plan is a plan for the long game.

“Edmontonians told us what kind of future they want for our city, and this plan will give us a blueprint to follow as our city grows and develops,” said Kalen Anderson, Director of The City Plan.

“Good planning is essential to building a strong city that’s prepared for anything an uncertain world brings—economic opportunities and challenges, environmental issues and changing technology.”

Here are some of the implications for land use and people movement laid out in the report on The City Plan…

 

Reduce the need for 5,000 additional hectares of land to fit the growing population

The draft City Plan recommends containing the growth of the city within the Edmonton’s existing borders. No more major annexations. Planning for smart density will allow the population to grow to two million people without expanding beyond borders, requiring more land and incurring the associated costs of sprawl.

 

Redevelop by making it possible for 50 percent of new Edmontonians to live in existing neighbourhoods

If we’re going to stay within the city’s existing borders, Edmonton’s existing neighbourhoods will need to redevelop to welcome at least half a million new residents. In turn, this would mean more medium and high density housing.

 

Using districts to create a community of communities

One way to create stronger connections between multiple communities and support a sense of purpose within communities is through district-level planning. The City Plan suggests the idea of creating 15 districts in Edmonton to spur development opportunities, improve the local economy in those districts and to expand access to parks and natural areas. This idea is similar to boroughs in Montréal, New York City and other major municipalities.

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Improve Edmonton’s long-term fiscal performance

Success of the initiatives and choices in the proposed City Plan, including how we change and adapt our city to an increasing population, will improve Edmonton’s long-term financial performance. Reducing sprawl and growing inwards will allow us to make better use of the existing pipes, roads, facilities and transit investments and reduce the need for brand new stuff farther out.

 

Increase the number of daily walking, cycling and public transit trips by 50 percent

A city of two million people means more roadway pressures. Reducing dependence on automobiles would help deal with congestion. And would be good for the environment and help the overall health of the city and its residents. This means making transit more appealing, giving room to bike riders and making our city highly walkable.

 

Ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent

The City Plan looks to a city built more compactly, where residents make shorter trips on foot or by bike. This is an Edmonton that increases medium and high density housing in growth areas. It’s a plan for a healthier, environmentally friendly future. With these land use changes we could reduce greenhouse gases by 6 percent.

 

Do the things to attract an additional one million people

The City Plan is the document that demonstrates to the world that Edmonton sees clearly the kind of choices that will build a community attractive to people and investment. The City Plan will help ensure Edmonton has done everything it can to make those choices confidently.

 

Learn more at edmonton.ca/thecityplan.

Thanks for reading. 🙏

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