When it comes to land use for the future of our city, the city plan lays out general goals that we are in the process of implementing and are looking to implement in the future. There will be an increased importance on prioritization of infrastructure policies, complete renewal of our zoning bylaw, planned land use concept, connection to our ravine system and activation of new areas.
In addition, the City Plan has set some large goals down as well for the future of two million people which include:
- Welcoming 600,000 additional residents into the redeveloping area
- Adding 50% of net new units through infill within the city boundary
- Ensuring all Edmontonians have access to infrastructure and amenities that improve the quality of life
- Creating 15-minute districts that allow people to easily complete their daily needs
First and foremost, we must look at maintaining population growth within our existing boundary. Continuing to grow as Edmonton has historically grown, the current city boundary would only accommodate a population of 1.8 million and would consume all available land. The expansion of Edmonton’s urban footprint by approximately 5,000 hectares would be required to accommodate an additional 200,000 people within the city’s municipal boundary. Historical growth patterns show that we require more efficient land development. As well, consuming less land ensures our climate resilience as a city by lowering environmental impact. This also supports intentional land use by creating more vibrant, dense communities that help reduce social isolation and increase social connectedness.
Next, Edmonton must maintain and increase access to green space. This can be done by reconnecting fragmented ecological habitat and bringing nature into existing and new communities (including lands recently added to Edmonton.) From there, we can also look at current gaps in green spaces and improve existing areas and their connectivity. Another way to maintain and increase access to green space includes, using natural areas to protect against climate change. Lastly, a crucial part of improving green space requires making it more open and easily accessible to Edmontonians to support physical and mental health,
Rebuilding and repurposing spaces are increasingly important to increase development potential within our city. This can be accomplished by identifying areas for intensification in places built on existing opportunities such as underutilized lands, malls, and arterial corridors. We can also extend infill throughout the city to provide more efficient use of available land and support adaptable spaces/for new development and redevelopment over time. Additional support can also be shown for more efficient use of infrastructure through upgrades over time. As well, it is essential to promote more livable, healthy places where spaces evolve and to build more inclusive spaces with a focus on greater accessibility and quality design.
On that same note, there is a need for greater integration and connected thinking for places, systems and networks. Implementation of this can include, providing a more equitable distribution of places to live, learn, work and create. Formation of a network of strategically located areas for intensification to spatially focus and organize development, investment, operations and services at a district level can also contribute to that connectedness. On that note, connectedness in terms of density and transit at all scales is needed with a shift towards more socially and physically connected places.
A large future goal is to diversify Edmonton’s economy. Land use can play a pivotal role in accomplishing that. Intensifying older industrial areas helps land to evolve and diversify over time. We must recognize the opportunity for economic diversification using agricultural development within and outside Edmonton’s boundary. In addition, we must grow new industrial lands in a manner that supports the regional context. By doing this we can also leverage local knowledge and expertise to recognize and act on emerging trends within a central innovation corridor. Activating strategically located areas for intensification helps act as economic hubs across the city and with regard to the region.
A big player in terms of the planning for our future city has been the Nodes and Corridors approach. A Nodes and Corridors approach, considers how users interact with space through various activities. This recognizes the relationship dynamic to interconnectedness, density and diversity of development. Implementing an approach such as this ensures that a municipality has the right mix between types of development to sustain it for the long-term. There must be investment around LRT stations, transit hubs and main hubs.
The goal of this approach is to recognize the importance of key locations within a city of high concentration. For instance this includes, meeting places, locations for cultural activities. Public institutions, major services/transit hubs and high concentration of residential or employment opportunities.
A Node is a place in a city where people and transportation routes congregate. Additionally, this would be transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly areas with high concentration and a variety of residential, employment, retail and other types of development.
A Corridor is an important transportation route that connects the Nodes of a city. For instance, this could look like a medium density area within the city with street-oriented development and mixed used development along arterial and collector roads, serving as major transit routes.
Many municipalities throughout North America have applied a Nodes and Corridors approach in terms of policy planning. These networks show up in the municipalities’ respective city spatial plans and guiding frameworks. While there are differences in how cities can define and apply Nodes and Corridors, most cities apply a hierarchical approach to Nodes and Corridors, with differing policies and targets for each level.
As Edmonton’s population increases over the coming decades, and ultimately doubles to two million people, there may be a shift in urban identity and activity from a city-wide perspective towards a more regionalized or district scale of sub-areas within the city.
Within the city plan, the city is looking at implementing 15-minute districts where you are within 15 minutes from needed amenities at the most. It is typical of very large cities to section itself off by regions to create more intimate communities within the city, whether they are divided in boroughs or arrondissements. This is a step in the right direction as Edmonton is one of the most spread out cities in North America.
District Planning is being considered as a process for preparing an integrated land, mobility, design, economic, social, and/or environmental plan at a subcity geographic scale, for a group of contiguous neighbourhoods.
As a form of secondary planning, District Plans may support the translation and implementation of The City Plan, providing locally-relevant, but also comprehensive planning direction. While historically this type of planning was completed at the single neighbourhood level, the geography of Planning Districts allows for a more integrated and holistic perspective and the ability to consider and address the needs contiguous neighbourhoods may share.
These might include opportunities and constraints to growth and change, demographic or socio-economic factors, or urban network features such as transportation conditions and accessibility, gathering spaces and amenity areas, or economic and employment activities. Inequity leads to costs in terms of productivity, health, social support reliance, criminal justice and taking steps with district planning to foster a more equitable society helps to eliminate these costs and will produce a more just and healthy city.
My main stipulation in terms of the planning of these 15-minute districts, is that it seems these districts are being planned in terms of 15-minutes by car. As mentioned in the Edmonton Strategic Plan, we create as a community to connect people to what matters to them. We care about the impact of our actions on our social, economic, cultural, spiritual and environmental systems. We serve those here today and those who come after us. Ideally, we should be planning these districts to accomodate more in terms of active transportation. Shifting the way we look and plan for these amenities, creates more accessible and sustainable districts.