The future of urban core neighbourhoods

The Edmonton CDC is working towards improving inner-city areas

The revitalization of some inner-city neighbourhoods has been underway for more than a decade, and the Edmonton Community Development Company has been at the forefront.

This non-profit organization, under the leadership of executive director Mark Holmgren, has joined forces with others on this revitalization journey. 

“The Edmonton CDC, often referred to as CDC, was born out of the Mayor’s Taskforce to End Poverty, which has now evolved to End Poverty Edmonton,’’ says Holmgren.

The organization’s goal is to actively address some of the disadvantages associated with urban core neighbourhoods such as Alberta Avenue, McCauley, and Eastwood. The CDC also has a mission to strengthen capacity building through actions such as land development, business development, and renewal projects to increase the vibrancy and socio-economic profile of those neighbourhoods.

Holmgren states, “Capacity building is how you provide a group of people who are interested in similar things with collective capacity to do more. They want organization, engagement, and community planning, hence our trajectory on capacity building includes helping groups who want to access best practices around those things. There is also a need to grow knowledge for the neighbourhood. To provide access to information, we have published a dashboard which delves into the characteristics of all these disadvantaged neighbourhoods. We were able to highlight data on old housing stock, problem properties, derelict abandoned housing, as well as specific details about non-market housing.’’

He adds, “Capacity building is also a means to develop skills, take initiative, and to be in control of your own future.”

Capacity building is so important that the organization introduced a 10-week Social Enterprise bootcamp. “It is a forum to learn how to create social enterprises, business planning, market research, financial modelling, and best practices. There were four bootcamps this year.’’  

Project 10 is another important initiative and is a priority due to the slum houses, drug houses, and abandoned derelict properties, all of which cause problems for the community. “To alleviate the problems, CDC has been buying dilapidated property and is converting them to market housing. These neighbourhoods want more market housing. They want to attract more families into the neighbourhood.’’

 Pictured is the first property the Edmonton CDC bought to activate Project 10. The property has been demolished and the CDC is currently at the development permit stage of building a new property. | Supplied by Edmonton CDC

The organization has garnered support from others who share the same vision. The CDC is demonstrating its commitment towards furthering this revamping process through its mandate and has committed significant cash and debt financing to make Project 10 a reality.

“No one else is doing this the way that we are, because to deal with common issues like asbestos in old houses and other problems inherent to old buildings, it will be very hard for conventional developers to make a profit. We are working with builders and people who will do pro bono work like lawyers, real estate agents, and engineers. We have bought two properties and two more are waiting to finalize the sale. The goal is to develop 10 properties by next year, while working on a strategy to go to Project 30 or Project 50 within three or four years,’’ says Holmgren.

​Low-income tenants have also felt the positive impact of CDC’s work in the community through affordable rental properties. “We bought  an 11 unit micro-unit apartment building to take it off the market and ensure we could maintain low rents for the tenants.”

The future of inner-city communities is on the verge of transformation. With core funding and parcels of land already gifted by the City, there will be a greater possibility of attracting new residents that will enable an economically diversified mix of residents. There will be a significant  difference in the economic profile of these neighbourhoods in the coming years.

Feature Image:  Wyser Manor is an 11 unit micro-apartment house the Edmonton CDC bought to ensure existing tenants had stable rent. | Supplied by Edmonton CDC

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