Evolving Infill in Edmonton

The City of Edmonton is undertaking a new project called "Evolving Infill" where they are looking for input from residents to advance residential infill in the city. Infill essentially means new homes, in old neighbourhoods, but it can be taken a step further to mean increasing population density in old neighbourhoods.

infill
Photo Source: Edmonton.ca

The project has a number of phases, the first of which (Gathering Feedback) ends on Friday. If you'd like to have your say, the easiest way is to visit the Engaging Edmonton web site and contribute your thoughts. City officials have pledged to consider all input in their decision process.

There are many arguments in favour of infill, most of which are agreeable to everyone as long as it's not in their backyard (nimba syndrome). Everyone likes the idea of curbing sprawl, and regenerating run down neighbourhoods, until a mega-modern-mansion shows up on a quaint street made up of character homes and war-time bungalows, or their property taxes spike because their neighbourhood has become so much more appealing.

Over the next 30 years we expect over 500,000 new residents to call Edmonton home. Supporting new housing in established neighbourhoods is a key element of finding homes for a growing population. Infill is one of a number of strategies to support growth and change in our city.

The outcome of the project will be an action plan that will serve as a roadmap for the City’s work to advance infill. We've certainly had our fair share of discussions on this blog on sprawl, skinny houses, infill and more, so why not share your opinions with the city on the Engaging Edmonton web site - just make sure you do it by Friday!

About 

Sara MacLennan is the Director of Marketing at Liv Real Estate and a licensed Real Estate Associate. The bulk of Sara’s experience and wealth of expertise lies in on-line technology and marketing both for agents and consumers. Sara is the former National Director for Interactive Marketing for Coldwell Banker Canada where she was responsible for an extensive training program traveling to offices across the country training agents and brokers on marketing and technology. Find Sara on Twitter @edmontonblogger.

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26 Responses to “Evolving Infill in Edmonton”

  1. MattNo Gravatar 28. Jan, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    I live in a neighbourhood with post-war bungalows. I actually like it when an infill is built. It increases the curb appeal of the neighbourhood, and therefore increases property values. I have an early 1950s bungalow that I paid $450k for, and the value seems to go up every year.

  2. AnonNo Gravatar 28. Jan, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    Their are only a couple of single family infills in my late 1950s neighbourhood (most of the homes are all really well maintained with new siding and windows). I agree that it does increase the curb appeal if done well. I think my biggest concern is the effect it would have on existing homes. I’ve been watching a MASSIVE infill go up on 142st and 98ave and because of its size (2 storey of course) and the fact that it is on a corner lot, it is going to block out all the southern light that the home next to it has/had.

  3. Inspector GadgetNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Hi everyone! Haven’t looked here lately as I have been down south for a good chunk of the winter so far.
    Infill is close to my heart as I hope to Infill on a prime lot in Parkallen in the near future. I know lots of owners in the area and it seems Edmonton has an issue rather unique. Houses on nice lots are well looked after and renoed even if they are old. That means that a nice Infill lot is very rare to find a typical knock down on. As WSN says it is why a new house on a nice lot in a decent Infill neighborhood is a million or Damn close. The other issue I see is people renting out decaying homes because they bought them for next to nothing 20 years ago or inherited the property. Not that much motivation to sell as the cost of entry was so low and the house was paid for long ago. Now it is rented and producing cash. Many of the real crap holes you see in Bulgravia, Parkallen, Allendale etc fall in to this category. If Edmonton really boomed where the lot was worth a mil these people would sell.
    I am not sure what all the talk about Infill creating density is either. Most infills don’t hold any more people than what they knock down to build. In fact often a rental with six students in it is replaced with a big house for a family of three or less. I personally know two families that built garage suites with the help of your tax dollars (cornerstones program) and the suites either contain their own children going to the U of their nanny! The rich get richer.
    Lastly, all the good lots if they do come available never hit the market. A couple local Realtors and their developer friends make sure of that, if you know what I mean. As I said I know many people in these areas and it happens regularly. Older lady wants to sell house, calls realtor on flyer, realtor says he has buyer no need to list, builder buys house to knock down, realtor gets easy commission, lady gets less than she deserves and those seeking a nice lot to build themselves wonder how the builders get all the lots.
    Anyone who thinks this is not happening all the time is dead wrong. Just ask Ed.

    • Sara MacLennanNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

      I’m with you… my plan is to build a quality home, on a quality lot in an older, central neighbourhood so I can run, bike, hike, ski and paddle in the river valley and live there for a very long time. It’s an expensive proposition, and you need to know what you’re doing or you can get into big trouble. The lots that do hit the market near the University almost always go in multiple offers, but there are plenty of other nice neighbourhoods out there and the LRT is going to go through a lot more neighbourhoods sometime this century. Anyway, people have to choose between price, size and location, just like any other city.

  4. Inspector GadgetNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    Broadbent that is. Famous for infill dealings in another city…. W.

  5. wsnNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    I think the main issue that infill isn’t more successful in Edmonton is that the city is confused about who is going to do infill.

    Infill is inherently expensive. Only a well off family can afford it. Myself and some of my friends can afford a $1M house, but still chose to build in a new area instead of infill. Here is why:

    1) No front garage. This is instantly a deal breaker. No matter how you defend it, the market speaks the truth. In new areas where you do have a choice of front garage or back lane, the back lane lots are there just to reduce the land cost. You don’t see a $350k estate lot with a back lane.

    2) Infill lots are small. A typical $350k lot in Mckernan is about 4300sf with 27′ pocket. A $350k in Windermere is about 9000sf with 56′ pocket. A larger infill lot, ones over 6000sf and 40′ pocket will cost you about $400k~$500k. A corresponding lot in Windermere would be 15,000 sf. In short, you would be asking for a million dollar shoe box, if you go infill.

    3) No architectural control in mature areas. Your $500,000 Belgravia lot could see an ugly duplex or even a 4 level apartment next door. In a new area, as long as you read the NSP, and the developer’s lot plan carefully, such things won’t happen. You know that your neighbors won’t be able to use vinyl siding or asphalt shingles, won’t build triple garage on a 40′ wide house, that’s for your peace of mind.

    In summary, the only way infill can prosper is to be oriented towards higher end buyers. It’s far viable to sell a $1.2M in Belgravia than 2x $600k duplex. To lower end buyers, location is not that important, square footage is. If the city tries to chase after those buyers, it will certainly meet market reality, just like before.

  6. AnonNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Who cares if you have a 9000 square foot lot when you are spending all your time commuting to work and back. Windermere to downtown in rush hour is likely a 45 minute drive if not more. Then you have to deal with all the horrible drivers, bumper to bumper traffic, and crazy Winter conditions (my coworker lives in Terwillegar and when it snows, it takes her 2 hours to get home from downtown). If you are not currently doing this commute, you cannot imagine how stressful it can be. As an average Edmontonian, I’ll take that $600k duplex 10 minutes from work anyday and sacrifice a bigger yard (which you won’t really need since you’ll be in neighbourhoods with soccer fields, baseball diamonds, playgrounds, and likely close to the River Valley).

    As to the other points above:
    - Rear attached garages
    - Infill lots aren’t just in Mckernan where the pockets are long and narrow
    - There’s nothing wrong with diversity. What’s ugly to you is tasteful to someone else and who really cares as long as whoever’s living there is happy. An ugly/multi family infill is still better than a decrepit 60 year old eyesore anyday.

    At the end of the day, people who buy infill duplexes will be middle class workers who value their time more than excessive space (1700 square feet with an additional 800 square feet basement is MORE than enough for a family of 4). Those who can afford the single family infills will be professionals who value their time AND who can afford the extra space.

    • wsnNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

      The thing with many of the infill sites is that the commute is not good at all. If you work downtown, the bottle neck is at the university area and the river crossing. If you are driving out of Belgravia, you will immediately get stuck on 114st, and then 109 st or Groat. You would only save 10 minutes as compared to Windermere. If commute time is the highest priority, then a new area called “Griesbach” beats the crap of most mature neighborhoods, including Belgravia, Crestwood, etc. If you work in the west end (i.e. industrial job), then Windermere and Cameron Heights are the top picks.

      Re your points:

      - Rear attached is not permitted unless it’s a corner site. Even if it’s permitted, you would have traffic noise in your back yard. Bumpy icy back lanes and annoying street parking in the front. A good area shouldn’t have any street parking.

      - I just used Mckernan as an example. Larger lots exist, but are either more expensive (Windsor Park) or in a worse location (Alberta Ave?).

      - There’s nothing wrong with diversity, as long as the said diversity is not ugly. There do exist a common sense of good looking. That’s the job of architectural review in new neighborhoods, which is missing in mature ones.

      People who claim that they want a start level infill are just like people who claim to want to buy a standard transmission wagon style diesel engine car. Their voices are much louder than their actual purchase power.

  7. Inspector GadgetNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    WSN, we know you love Windermere…. But why you like it better than infill is not the topic.

  8. Inspector GadgetNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    WSN where I build my infill will be 4km from my work downtown. A leisurely bike ride or walk from home. LRT is also a short walk from front door as an option if you want to wiz past high level traffic. I have friends in Windermere. It takes 20 minutes with zero traffic from Queen Alex. Windermere is nice for a new area but it does not hold any appeal to those that prefer city living. It is a big suburban development and not everyone wants that.

    • wsnNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

      Parkallen and short walk to LRT? Cough cough …

  9. Inspector GadgetNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    750 metres measured by gps front door to trains. How lazy are you?

    • JoJoNo Gravatar 30. Jan, 2014 at 11:02 am #

      To walk 750 meters to the LRT in -20 degrees temperature is not fun. Just sayin…

  10. MattNo Gravatar 29. Jan, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    WSN, the reason land is so cheap in Windemere and the other suburbs is that no one in their right mind would choose to live there. Because of that, the land is worth so much less than land in actual desirable neighbourhoods.

    • wsnNo Gravatar 30. Jan, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

      Using the same logic, the reason there are so few infill constructions in mature neighborhoods as compared to constructions in new areas is that no one in their right mind would choose to build there. Because of that, new home starts in mature neighborhood is much smaller than starts in actual desirable neighborhoods.

  11. Inspector GadgetNo Gravatar 30. Jan, 2014 at 5:18 am #

    Or did the great WSN forget about South Campus? My guess is he would never take the train since it doesn’t go to Windermere!

    • wsnNo Gravatar 30. Jan, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

      Walking from Parkallen to South Campus LRT station? Cough cough …

      • Inspector GadgetNo Gravatar 30. Jan, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

        Walking from Windemere to anywhere…..forget about it.

        • 123kidNo Gravatar 30. Jan, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

          wsn/IG… these are mere first world issues.

          You need a good three day supply of food in the back pack to go walking from windermere to downtown.

          Be an odyssey.

        • wsnNo Gravatar 31. Jan, 2014 at 9:27 am #

          Windermere has it’s own HomeDepot, Walmart, Superstore, Safeway, Starbucks, two K-9 schools, oh and … three liquor stores. The walking distance ranges from 50m to 1000m, depending where you live.

          In Parkallen, you would really need to pack some food and drink to walk to the nearest grocery store.

  12. 123kidNo Gravatar 30. Jan, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    LOL! I love it.

    Location location location.

    Closer to the CBD from the south/north west the better (such as garneau, parkallen, pleasantview, duggan, greenfield, blue quill, westbrook, aspen garden, bears paw, landsdown, belgravia, allendale, brander gardens, strathcona, riverdale, bonnie doon, oliver and twinbrooks)

    Tier One (hot zone).

    • wsnNo Gravatar 31. Jan, 2014 at 9:33 am #

      1) I don’t understand why is your fascination with the CBD. Chinatown is the closest to the CBD. Must be the best area in your definition.

      2) Windsor Park is good because of the University.

      3) Westbrook is good because of the Whitemud Creek and Derrick Club.

      4) Brander Gardens, Twin Brooks are not mature neighborhoods. Please don’t invent things.

      5) Most of the areas you listed are not desirable at all. They were simply Macewan of past decades. They are old, but not good. Would you laugh at someone who would claim Macewan to be good in year 2050? I would.

      • 123kidNo Gravatar 31. Jan, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

        wsn:

        1. Behind my fascination for the cbd is the old adage “location, location, location”.

        Just as Vancouver has its CBD and lesser desirable neighbourhoods such as its China-Town, it also has the highest land values in the GVRD (ie. Arbutus, UBC, Kerrisdale, Granville Island, False Creek, Shaunessy, etc).

        2 and 3. Yes/Agreed.

        4. Did not say Brander and Twin B were mature neighbourhoods. More the location factor and its desirability for families due to such things as better access to schools and … the CBD.

        5. Totally disagree. The proximity to CBD, access to arterial roads in and out of the city, and the infrastructure, including the better schools, is what makes those aforementioned areas “money”…. If I agreed with your #5, then Windermere would also be a slum zone by 2050.

        :)

        • wsnNo Gravatar 03. Feb, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

          You make me laugh. “Twin Brooks” and “proximity to CBD”?
          Ever been there?
          ;-)

  13. 123kidNo Gravatar 30. Jan, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    what matters is when the infills become condo units and you get more tax payers paying per sq feet closer to the central business district (CBD)

    infills or no infills, those closer to the cbd will see some nice increases vis a vis the outlying areas, such as … Leduc.

  14. Inspector GadgetNo Gravatar 31. Jan, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    Yes WSN all those crappy duplexes and row houses in the surrounding neigbourhoods are really top notch! There is some very cheapbhousing right around you…but I guess the Windermere dome will keep it different than any other area!