'Part of the transformation of a city': Developer pitches 7-storey mixed-use development in Strathcona

Four lots with single-family homes in the Strathcona neighbourhood could soon be the site of a mixed-use seven-storey building, but not everyone who lives in the area is excited about the project. 

About 50 people attended an open house Wednesday to voice their thoughts on the proposed development. 

The proposed building is a seven-storey structure with an eighth storey rooftop area on the east side of 99th Street at 90th Avenue. It would include commercial space on the ground level and up to 60 residential units. 

Currently, the area is zoned for a medium-rise structure, which would allow for a four- to six-storey structure. 

Along with concerns about a lack of parking and traffic disruptions, many residents in attendance were concerned about the loss of the old homes that are currently on the lots. 

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"When there are homes that do have some historic significance we do engage our historical planners," Andrew McLellan, planner with the City of Edmonton said. "So, that does happen a lot in this area for example. If, for whatever reason, they think the house has some heritage value we'll talk to the [developer] and see if there's anything they want to do to try and preserve that house."

McLellan said the city has seen success incorporating historic buildings into modern structures like The Hendrix building at 111th Street and 97th Avenue, which incorporated the J.T. Ross House into the design. 

According to McLellan when an application for rezoning is received the city looks at a number of factors including traffic impacts and the height of the building. 

"We have to consider things like some of the broader city goals around increasing density," McLellan said. "But, we also need to make sure that it's density at the right locations and that it's done in the right way."

McLellan said there is technical review for the building under way, which will be analyzed along with feedback from the public engagement before a final recommendation will be made to city council. 

Former area MP and long-time resident Linda Duncan lives on the same street as the proposed development. She attended the meeting hoping to have a chance to voice her concerns about the traffic impact she fears the building will have on 99th Street. 

Duncan also raised concerns about the impact of infill development on historic neighbourhoods.

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"We need to have a good discussion in our city about how we are moving [forward]," Duncan said. "Yes we should [add density], but look at the urban sprawl. It is possible to [add density] and not impact our heritage communities."

Chris Dulaba with Beljan Developments said that none of the buildings currently on the lots proposed for rezoning have been identified as historic places of interest.

"Ultimately at the end of the day this is part of the transformation of a city," Dulaba said. "You'll see lower intensity uses redeveloped for high intensity uses and I think this is a good example of that. It's something we're seeing more throughout the city as it starts to grow up and become a denser Edmonton."

Dulaba thinks that the 99th Street area is poised to become a much more pedestrian-friendly hub for the Strathcona neighbourhood. 

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"The street is well positioned to take advantage and become a main street," Dulaba said. "I think a mixed-use development like this certainly helps create that sort of building block and foundation for it to become a bit more of a walkable street."

Feedback collected at the public engagement session will be compiled into a report for city council. A date for the public hearing is still to be determined.