Edmontonians Love the Suburbs, But the City Centre Has Its Own Appeal

Edmonton is bursting at the seams, literally. Developers have consistently built out rather than up, increasing the city’s footprint as the population heads farther and farther into the suburbs. The appeal of more house and/or land for the buck is enticing even if long commutes and less at home time with the family are part of the package.

That dependence on the automobile has garnered a bit more scrutiny of late. Yes, Alberta is king as far as oil production in Canada and gas prices are not something the province should have to worry about. But there is still the environmental factor. Car designers have come up with more energy efficient models, and that is a great help.

There is also the issue of public transit. Extending bus, subway and metro lines is expensive. While it would be nice to connect each suburb to the city via one of these methods, the low density in suburbia means a lower tax base. The money just simply isn’t there, at least in most cases.

Enter the developers with the vision of building in the suburbs but modeling their creations to be pedestrian friendly and more in line with neighborhoods you’d find closer to Edmonton’s city centre. Instead of just rows and rows of homes on large lots, the designers add townhouses and duplexes to the mix and put in sort of a “town center” with shops, services and places for neighbors to gather and get to know each other. The best ones have a public transit stop or station connecting their slice of paradise to Edmonton’s job centers.

While the above described alternative is appealing to many you will still have those seeking big houses on large lots. The price points are lower and the chance to own a brand new home is attractive. There may not be a fancy playground installed yet, but often the newer developments are close to nature areas with trails suitable for hiking and biking. The trade off is sometimes having to jump in the car to take the kids to school or do a shopping run.

A number of studies have been done concerning Edmonton’s continued expansion into the prairies. According to David Gordon, a past Edmonton resident who is now with Queen’s University in Kingston, this consistent expansion of the city’s footprint is not sustainable. The recent focus on the redevelopment of some of Edmonton’s downtown core neighborhoods indicates Gordon is not alone in his opinion.

Younger residents, drawn to Edmonton by an abundance of jobs with decent wages, are trending towards city living. As a group they are more environmentally conscious, concerned with car emissions, greenhouse gasses and the like. At the same time they want to be where the action is. Often those living in the suburbs don’t come into town for festivals or games, simply because they just don’t want to make the drive.

Urban living means little or no commute, and that is most likely on public transit. Some downtown dwellers don’t even own a car. There is also the convenience of getting off work and stopping off at the local pub or popping into a neighborhood grocery store before heading home. Yes, the square footage of your home may be considerably less than that sprawling home in the suburbs, but you do have the city literally at your feet.

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