By Erica Marie

With Edmonton’s population and employment growth these past decades, economically distressed neighbourhoods remain isolated from mainstream economic opportunities and continue to experience inequality. A Community Development Company (CDC) has been recognized as an effective tool for revitalizing underserved neighbourhoods. In 2016, Council approved a proposal to establish a CDC in Edmonton as part of End Poverty’s Road Map to invest in a poverty-free future.

 

The Edmonton Community Development Company (ECDC) began its work in 2018 with a mission to engage and collaborate with urban core neighbourhoods. The ECDC aims to understand the needs and aspirations of a community to guide the organization’s direction.

Scope of work (2560 × 1552 px)

The ECDC’s scope of service includes a range of areas of focus, including but not limited to:

  • Residential redevelopment within core communities
  • Community engagement and information resource
  • Problem properties database and research
  • Commercial developments influenced by the community
  • Multi-unit housing and management
  • Community partnerships and supporting local businesses

Over the past five years, the ECDC has addressed problem properties in the neighbourhoods of Alberta Avenue, McCauley, Eastwood, and Parkdale. They have also undertaken a commercial redevelopment project that included the creation of an investment co-operative and formed partnerships that helped advance these development opportunities. Below is the detailed progress the ECDC has achieved within the past five years.

RESIDENTIAL REDEVELOPMENT

Project 10

Through engaging with residents and business owners in urban core neighbourhoods, the ECDC has identified problem properties as one of the community’s most significant stress points. Over the last five years, the ECDC has acquired ten derelict properties throughout the neighbourhoods of McCauley, Alberta Avenue, Eastwood, and Parkdale. They have partnered with local builders such as Skil-Tec and Euro Design Master Builder to build new homes for families to purchase at or just below market value. They look forward to continuing this initiative onto Project 20 and beyond.

COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT

The Piazza

When the McCauley neighbourhood asked the ECDC to help purchase a strip mall in the heart of the neighbourhood, they didnt hesitate. Working with community residents, the ECDC provided backbone services that contributed to the formation of the McCauley Development Cooperative. More than 90 investors, including the ECDC, stepped up to make this strip mall a neighbourhood-owned asset. A six-part podcast series on The Piazza was released detailing the ECDC’s experience working with community members to incorporate the McCauley Development Co-operative and achieve the near-impossible, raising $1.1 million in 20 days to purchase and revitalize the once problematic strip mall.

The 118 Ave Community Hub

Bringing together a shared vision of an arts-focused community hub, the ECDC in collaboration with Arts on the Ave are working towards a space for nurturing the arts with a design that blends functionality and aesthetics. The concept plan for The Hub is to build livework lofts for artists living with low income, including amenities such as The Carrot (a volunteer run art and performance venue with awesome coffee and treats), a black box theatre, an artist studio, workshop, and public gathering space. A project team has been created that is moving the project ahead. Rezoning is underway, funding applications continue to be submitted, financing requests will be submitted and a significant rebranding through community engagement will be completed in 2022.

McCauley Lands

Primavera Development Group acquired the site on the northeast corner of 95th Street between 106A Ave and 106th Avenue. The design plans for the site will incorporate components of the four U of A Ring Houses and two East Campus Village Houses. The space will be a permanent home for the Edmonton Sculpture Project and include amenities such as a coffee shop and daycare. The property will need to be rezoned so construction is anticipated in late 2023 or early 2024.

Fraser and Eastwood Lands

The ECDC acquired land in Fraser and Eastwood. However, since the sites require substantial investment to build streets, curbs/gutters/sidewalks, and all utility installations, the ECDC is seeking partners for the development. These will likely be longer-term developments.  

MULTI-UNIT HOUSING

Wyser Manor

The ECDC purchased Wyser Manor, an 11-unit apartment house in the heart of McCauley. It was once a boarded-up, derelict property until the late 1990s. Well-maintained and operated by previous owners over the years, this 100-plus-year-old home offers affordable rents to lower-income tenants (some of whom are living off a pension or AISH).

RESEARCH AND DATABASE

Socio-Economic Costs of Edmonton’s Problem Properties

The ECDC produced a report to shed light on the social and economic toll of derelict and problem properties, located primarily in Edmonton’s core neighbourhoods. Working with the City of Edmonton’s Problem Properties Initiative, a sample of 31 high intensity problem properties were selected for tracking over four years (2017-2020). The three key stakeholders identified and included in the analysis are the City of Edmonton, Alberta Health Services, and Neighbours/Neighbourhoods. The research found that the total cost for the 31 properties for the four years in question is $6,206,120.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Social Media Updates

Keeping people at the forefront of ECDCs community development approach, they believe communication is essential. Using various tools and channels such as Instagram and Facebook, they strive to keep communities informed of their work in their neighbourhoods in the name of enabling trust and inclusion. Construction updates and relevant community information are posted regularly.

ECDC Blog

The ECDCs website offers a space for articles that detail the organizations initiatives and projects. It acts as a resource for community members, stakeholders, and local partners to examine the issues surrounding their efforts.

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP

The success of ECDC comes from the support of organizations such as the City of Edmonton, The Alberta Social Venture Fund, United Way of Alberta Capital Region, Homeward Trust, and the Edmonton Community Foundation.

 

They are also working with Euro Design Master Builder and Skil-Tec, who specializes in infill development and are currently constructing new homes for the Project 10 initiative. Don McKay and his team represented the organization in purchasing the Project 10 properties and are facilitating the sale of the finished projects. Lawyer, Rosellina Giardino, represented ECDC in the conveyance of property purchases. With development costs considerably higher in core neighbourhoods than in the suburbs, these partnerships are crucial to the success of ECDC.

 

The ECDC has undertaken a few projects that have positive and long-term effects on neighbourhoods. Project 10 has resulted in the demolition of 10 derelict and problem properties, with 24 new homes to be built in their stead. The McCauley Development Co-operative proved that the economic power of local residents can be harnessed to have a significant impact. Imagine what the future holds when we consider the effect of game-changer developments such as the hub on 118th Avenue and the development on 95th Street lands in McCauley. These signify exciting times ahead for the ECDC as they continue their work towards revitalization and community development.

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