By Erica Marie
A Community Development Company’s (CDC) purpose is to improve the social and economic welfare in underserved neighbourhoods. There are many CDCs within North America involved in a range of initiatives critical to a community’s health. The oldest CDC in Canada, New Dawn Enterprises was established in 1976 and focuses on areas such as housing, senior care, meal deliveries, and immigration settlement.
A CDC’s approach will be unique to each city’s needs, but the core of their work is always for the people and its communities. The Edmonton Community Development Company (ECDC) was born out of End Poverty’s Road Map to invest in a poverty-free future. The current tools and strategies the ECDC have implemented focus on redeveloping residential and commercial properties.
Economic regrowth is greatly tied to the renewal of vacant properties and reinvestments in commercial buildings. If not addressed, these properties can have blighting influences on their neighbourhoods by lowering surrounding property values and straining the time and resources of the city from the crime and arson that often occur in these unoccupied spaces.
A comprehensive study was done by the ECDC to quantify the socio-economic costs of Edmonton’s problem properties. The analysis reveals that more than the financial costs problem properties create, community members bear the highest consequences of living around derelict houses. It is not only a threat to public safety but also contributes to the significant decline of the community.
Neighbourhood safety is a top concern for residents. Neglected properties are a substantial contributor to drug activities and fire-related incidents within a community. The Community Property Safety Team (CPST) was launched this year to proactively address derelict properties by imposing immediate compliance and holding landowners accountable.
Commercial vacant land or properties pose unique challenges. Reusing these spaces can be complex because it must reflect the current demands of the community but also align with Edmonton’s overall City Plan. A decline in population growth and lack of capital investments in older neighbourhoods such as McCauley and Alberta Avenue have contributed to property abandonment and weakened inner city markets.
With recent revitalization efforts from the city and organizations such as the ECDC, these development patterns are making a turn as more people are interested in living within core neighbourhoods. Strip malls, such as The Piazza in McCauley, have been revitalized to invite businesses to repopulate the space. Derelict properties are being demolished to offer modern homes to welcome new families to the community.
Over time, residential and commercial revitalization efforts attract families and businesses to these communities. This approach encourages job creation which enhances community stability and economic development.
Ultimately, the ECDC believes that reinvesting in commercial properties helps surrounding communities increase their quality of life through improved access to goods and services. Additionally, focusing on residential redevelopment provides a safer neighbourhood for families to enjoy and positively impacts their overall economic well-being.