This past summer, a handful of city planning students tackled the topic of residential infill as part of their internships with the City of Edmonton by diving right into the conversation. Hired to support our City’s planning branch, the students divided their time between policy and implementation: researching best practices and policies at their desks during the day, and visiting construction sites during the afternoon and evening.
They travelled over 300 kilometres across 73 neighbourhoods, visiting 269 construction sites, and meeting with over 530 neighbours ㄧ compared to 183 sites and 302 neighbours visited in 2017. Throughout their routes, these students would share educational material and resources about infill and construction.
Shalaka and Emma visited more than 73 neighbourhoods this past summer (maps and routes developed through the City of Edmonton's Geospatial and Planning Services team, and data from our Business Analysis team)
The City of Edmonton has heard from citizens that considerate practices are vital to the image of the construction industry and general public support for redevelopment of infill in older neighbourhoods. Having students visit active construction sites was an opportunity to ensure that both builders and neighbours have the right information as infill development proceeds in their neighbourhoods; and to communicate key contact information should questions and/or concerns need to be relayed.
“When working on new housing applications, the process, while important, can sometimes make it difficult to remember that there is someone on the receiving end of the paperwork,” said Shalaka Jadhav, one of four planning students who offered their time to promote infill this past summer.
Her teammate, Emma Zurawell, added: “Going out into the field, has been an opportunity to engage with builders, construction workers, neighbours and to learn about their lived experiences with the processes we build, and build a more empathetic lens for our work back at the office.”
Pictured below, Jack Cherniawsky helped to brighten up construction spaces using chalk-based stencils. Builders participated in this stencil program as a way to welcome the neighbourhood to their development, and demonstrate their commitment to respectful construction practices.
Jack and Nhel, using chalk-based stencils to promote infill
“Construction isn’t always perceived as a visually beautiful process,” says Cherniawsky. “Activating the space itself aided in both delivering messaging about infill, as well as, brightening the space.”
Nhel Soriano, like Jadhav, is a student from the University of Waterloo, in Edmonton for an 8-month co-op learning experience. Unlike Zurawell and Cherniawsky, both native to the city, Soriano and Jadhav saw their task of infill promotion as an opportunity to explore the city, its variety of neighbourhoods, and to get a sense of pressing local issues.
“New to the city, this was an opportunity to see and learn more about the types of infill and housing in each of Edmonton’s neighbourhoods. It enhanced our ability to engage with a variety of people, who hold a variety of viewpoints,” Soriano noted.
In a follow-up survey with builders, many indicated that they learned more about the construction process and found the information useful. Neighbours noted how they were more informed about their rights and the responsibilities of builders.
As identified in the Infill Roadmap 2018, the City of Edmonton is committed to monitor issues related to infill development (“Monitor and make the necessary improvements to regulate how the City addresses emerging issues related to infill construction”). Getting out to share relevant infill information is an important approach to realize this action, serving as a positive conduit between builders, neighbours, and the city ㄧ providing useful information and resources about the permitting process and construction best practices and responding to concerns/feedback by listening.