In Skyrattler and Blue Quill (two Ward 10 communities) many people there are struggling against the city over the future use of their surplus plus school site land. The city technically considers the site a building envelope left over from the original development where a school was planned but never built. They were recently zoned for future infill housing development. But the community considers it important green space and they are fighting to protect it.
Let’s think bigger about parks!
Parks are a huge piece of the infill puzzle. They are part of the alternative to the single-family back yard, which new homebuyers most often choose in newer instead of older communities.
The cost of single-family housing is less in the suburbs than in mature neighborhoods. So, in order to attract people to core neighbourhoods we have to increase affordability by providing multi family housing. But multi family housing is less desirable because of the lack of a yard. Alternatively, an important option is to develop attractive parks that can replace what we achieve in part from bigger yards. Parks are as big of a part of the infill package as are walkable amenities, public transit and flexible housing choices.
The Infill Dilemma
However, significant pieces of green spaces in these neighbourhoods are currently zoned for future housing development. This means potentially beautiful and modern parks might be fragmented by new housing.
So, to guarantee access to green space and nature new homeowners are steered toward private backyards in new developments on the edge of the city.
We need them both.
Building infill housing for new families and retaining seniors in mature neighbourhoods is important to me. But we must recognize that great parks can act as an attractive amenity for new residents rather than a space for their homes. We need to transform greenspaces into widely accessible urban parks, while still working to develop other plots of land into usable infill spaces.
How do we do this? Well, it starts with taking a look at the recent design of our Winter City Strategy. We must begin to think of our parks as year round destinations, not just for the hearty cross-country skiers and snowshoers, but for everyone.
And most importantly, we must engage mature communities in designing a park that reflects the evolving demographic of the neighbourhood. This cannot simply be an issue of protecting green space versus infill development. But rather, it should be an exercise of collaboration to determine how we can bring families and newcomers into the neighbourhood with affordable housing and enhanced green space in the form of modern and attractive urban parks- think amphitheatres, cricket pitches, lawn bowling, community gardens, markets, music festivals, volleyball courts, ice playgrounds, luge tracks, winter festivals, outdoor chapels and meditation trails.
There are plenty of ways for our Ward 10 communities to contribute to the sustainable growth of Edmonton. But I don’t believe developing our parks is the best way forward. I will work with the community to find expedient alternatives where possible to achieve these housing goals. Congruently we must evolve our “green spaces” into the kind of public parks that will increase demand for new infill in older neighbourhoods.
Specifically when it comes to the struggles in Skyrattler and Blue Quill I will move forward as follows:
- I will make an “inquiry” about the potential impact of eventual development on the Taylor College site and the subsequent park and green space requirements. This report will inform any decisions moving forward on potential First Place housing on Skyrattler Park.
- In Blue Quill, a motion was put forward for a reorientation of the First Place housing on the park. This should move any development to the north side of park next to the seniors housing and avoid fragmentation of the park. I would support a motion that any proceeds from the sale of these homes be directed toward park enhancements for the increasingly diverse Blue Quill community.