Q & A with TOD: Caitlin Brandon speaks with Michael Strong

Belgravia resident Caitlin Brandon interviews Michael Strong, Senior Planner with City of Edmonton Sustainable Development about the Transit Oriented Development project currently underway with Belgravia and McKernan neighbourhoods.  This consultation will significantly shape the neighbourhood into the future and over the long term.  For more information and background on this, visit the related City of Edmonton project page.

Q. First, are you getting sufficient feedback from Belgravian’s regarding TOD?

A. We have had a good response but always welcome more.

Q.  Where we are now with TOD planning for McKernan/Belgravia?

A. At the March workshop, the TOD planning group introduced a draft
vision, a set of principles, and three main components of a design
framework (e.g. Streets and Open Space, Access and Connectivity,
Development Opportunities). For each of the framework components, a
series of possible design strategies (e.g. Green Spine) at the
neighbourhood level were introduced and described so that the
community could see and respond to these.

Concept B showed more design strategies used and therefore more future
change while Concept A showed less. Community stakeholders’ responses
to the vision, principles, design components and strategies will help
point us in the right direction and tell us how much change is
appropriate. The task for community members now is to tell us not only
which concept they generally prefer, but also what types of design
strategies they would specifically like to see and why. Community
feedback from the workshop, submitted workbooks, blog comments, emails
and letters are all being used to create a customized design for the
Station Area Plan and not just pick from either the A or B Concept
presented in March.

Q. Feedback you published from the first TOD meeting, as well as
comments on the Mckernan/Belgravia TOD Blog, support family housing to
be preserved in the area. What aspects of your proposed TOD plan work
to supports and enhance family suitability?

A. Based on community feedback from the first workshop, we have worked to
protect single-family housing within the interior of neighbourhoods by focusing
future development to the periphery. This approach offers to provide greater
housing diversity for students, aging adults, and young families, support for
increased transit use, strengthen pedestrian amenities and demand for more
local commercial services.

Feedback from the second workshop in March is currently being used to define
a ‘preferred’ development concept which will support families. This includes
emphasis on strengthening cycling and pedestrian networks and connectivity,
maintaining and adding green spaces, and careful consideration of future
development opportunities (e.g. type, location, density, design).

Q. Does the City currently have plans to expropriate properties in
order to implement a McKernan/Belgravia TOD plan?

A. No.

Q. Regarding the linear park that would be developed with larger
housing forms along the perimeter,  I have heard agreement and
disagreement for this. Those that do like the idea appreciate the
creation of a linear park, increased pathway visibility and safety,
etc. However, I am confused about how you see this developing
occurring with re-zoning alone. My question to you as a planner is,
over how many years would you expect this kind of development to

A. A number of factors affect the developability of denser housing proposed
along the periphery of Belgravia and McKernan. For example, the final approved
plan, zoning, market demand for certain housing forms, developer interest,
economic risk and feasibility, and willingness of existing property
owners to sell
their land are just some of the factors influencing future
development. For these
reasons, it is expected that development would evolve incrementally
over the long-term (a period of 25 years or more).

Q. I understand the City is moving to limit lower scale development
(eg. houses) in areas zoned for higher scale development (eg.
apartments). If land amalgamation takes a really long time, existing
poorly maintained rental housing may worsen rather than have a
potential for redevelopment. This concerns several people I spoke to –
what are your comments on this?

A. Belgravia and McKernan residents want to know their neighbourhoods will
continue to be attractive desirable places to live. However, it is the
of property owners to maintain their property whether they reside there or
not. Properties that are poorly maintained do not command the highest
neighbourhood real estate prices, and because of this, are less expensive to
acquire for redevelopment purposes.

Q. Many of us that live and raise our families in McKernan and
Belgravia struggle with the proliferation of multi-bedroom houses used
for student rentals as well as dilapidated houses and absentee
landlords. While clearly TOD cannot dictate the private use of an
individual house, many people I spoke with were expecting that TOD
planning could put in place some supports to encourage higher rates of
home ownership, families, and age in place that our community has
expressed substantial support for.  I don’t see this in your proposal.
Can you please comment on this as a planner as to what supports could
be put in place?

A. At this phase in the planning process, we are setting policy
supports by confirming feedback from the March workshop and using this
to establish the vision, guiding principles and future development
framework for Belgravia and McKernan. A Station Area Plan will also be
drafted to specifically address those components of streets and open
spaces, access and connectivity, and future development that will
support neighbourhood reinvestment, attract young families and enable
additional aging-in-place opportunities.

Q. For larger (multi-unit) developments, can the community specify
that these contain a minimum percentage of 3-bedroom units that would
be suitable for families, and single floor units suitable to age in

A.  Yes, special zoning can achieve this but there are risks
associated with this. If the overall zoning is too specialized,
complicated, and or constraining, future development for the site may
not be economically feasible or achievable. So while it can be done,
it also requires careful consideration.

Q. What is the City planning for the Belgravia Arts Park?
Documentation from the March TOD meeting looks like a building is on
the park.

A. The purpose of the March workshop was to explore different design options
for McKernan and Belgravia that could occur over the next 25 years. Both
Concept A and B showed a building on the Belgravia Arts Park which was
proposed for additional community needs (e.g. meeting space, daycare).
Comments received to date suggest the park should remain in its
current form. We will use this feedback to further revise the
development concept.

Q. Is the TOD plan going to proceed with changes at McKernan School
and St. Peter’s School Site as shown in the meeting documentation?

A. Based on feedback received, we will be making a series of design revisions
to both McKernan and St. Peter’s School sites to more accurately reflect
stakeholder input and a ‘preferred’ development concept. However at
this point, we
expect McKernan School will remain unchanged in its present form.

Q. Was the March TOD meeting the final proposal?

A. No. A third workshop will be held to present a draft of the
‘preferred’ concept
and with it a draft Station Area Plan for additional stakeholder
review and comment prior to
advancing a final plan to City Council Public Hearing before the end
of 2012. The third Public Open House Workshop is expected to be held
in September (date and time to be determined).

Q. The March TOD meeting show intersections on 74th and 78th. Will
these bring traffic into Belgravia?

A. The March workshop proposed modifications to 74 and 78 Avenue on
114 Street that would remove (i.e. cut out a portion of) the centre
median permitting off-peak vehicle movements and improvements to
pedestrian crossings. This would have the effect of allowing vehicles
in and out of McKernan during off-peak (non-rush) hours only. However,
based on comments received and additional design review, we are now
looking at only pedestrian crossing improvements at 74 and 78 Avenue.

Q. The March TOD meeting proposed additional bicycle lanes on 78th and
74th. Are these going to be one-way so as to limit the loss of street

A. We understand that parking is an important issue to both Belgravia
and McKernan residents. The exact type or form of cycle route (e.g.
sharrow, lane, or protected lane) has not been determined at this time
and will require further analysis as we move forward in the planning

Q. Many people I spoke with expected to see a TOD proposal to improve
walkability/crossability at the 114 St and University Avenue
Intersection. Is TOD going to improve this intersection?

A. Potential pedestrian improvements at University Avenue and 114
Street will be further examined  within the context of the proposed
‘preferred’ development concept, draft Station Area Plan and overall
implementation strategy.

Q. Many people I have spoken with felt that the reduction of parking
requirements for valid secondary suites near the LRT could be reduced.
Is this a consideration in the TOD plan?

A. Parking near LRT will be further examined  within the context of
the proposed ‘preferred’ development concept, draft Station Area Plan
and overall implementation strategy.

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