Good things happen when cities talk: Winnipeg visits Edmonton for infill lessons

Posted on October 28th, 2019

An information exchange between Winnipeg’s city planners and industry associations like YEGarden Suites, Infill Development in Edmonton Association (IDEA), and Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL), along with City of Edmonton planning staff
An information exchange between Winnipeg’s city planners and industry associations like YEGarden Suites, Infill Development in Edmonton Association (IDEA), and Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL), along with City of Edmonton planning staff

Late October, two planners from the City of Winnipeg — Richard Mahe and Devin Clarke — infiltrated Edmonton to gather insights and lessons around residential infill. City of Edmonton’s administrative staff from City Planning, Development Services, and Community Standards, joined Mahe and Clarke, providing their playbook for the development of the city’s Infill Roadmap, and their experiences with public and stakeholder engagement and construction and compliance.

The City of Winnipeg’s work to develop their own infill strategy is underway.

“Edmonton’s strategic approach to policy and regulatory changes for infill have caught the attention of other cities across Canada.” says Kim Petrin, Branch Manager of Development Services. “Staff and collaborators of the Infill Roadmap continue to provide insight to cities across the country, including Regina, Calgary, and Coquitlam. We were very excited to meet with Winnipeg’s city builders to share our success stories and lessons learned. As populations in Canadian cities are expected to increase, creating an environment to nurture a more compact urban form is critical to drive change and support infill development.”

An overview of the technical and regulatory changes that were advanced to enable infill was provided to our guests from Winnipeg, with a special focus on the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay, amendments to support the ‘missing middle’ and changes to the RF1/RF2 zones to allow semi-detached and duplex homes to develop as-of-right — while sharing context on the city’s renewal of its Zoning Bylaw. 

Perspectives from city building partners like the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, YEGarden Suites, and Infill Development in Edmonton Association (IDEA) highlighted the necessity of community organizations and associations in stoking the infill conversation and in empowering local knowledge building about upcoming policy/regulatory changes.

“We punctuated with the City of Winnipeg on the importance of collaboration between municipalities and grassroots advocacy groups,” says Ashley Salvador of YEGarden Suites. “Fostering these relationships can be a catalyst for progressive urban development and city-building.”

Kim Petrin and Development and Zoning Services Director, Lyla Peter, provided an overview on the resources put in place to advance the City’s infill strategy — from funding to develop and implement the Infill Roadmap, to staffing resources to ensure infill is built in compliance with development permit conditions. Kalen Anderson, Director of City Plan, shared insights on the work being done to renew Edmonton’s municipal development plan — focusing on the plan’s explicit gaze towards managing population growth within the city’s current boundary.

“We are appreciative of the hospitality shown to us by Edmonton’s planning staff,” says Mahe, who is one of the planners responsible for Winnipeg’s budding infill strategy. “It has been impressive to witness the coordination and collaboration between internal and external stakeholders — all working together to welcome more people and more homes into Edmonton’s older neighbourhoods. It’s clear to me that while the political climate was ripe, and there were Councillors championing this initiative, Edmonton’s administration were keen on not dropping the ball — working tirelessly to think through challenges and opportunities in creative ways.”

Interactive workshops, including a tour of infill homes and downtown, highlighted the current snapshot of Edmonton’s residential development.

Winnipeg city planners (Richard Mahe and Devin Clarke, left to right) speak with Matthew Kaprowy, president and general manager of Accent Infills — hearing firsthand the challenges and opportunities faced by builders and developers in Edmonton

Canadian urban issues are complex yet rarely experienced in isolation. The challenges that different cities face are often shared and present opportunities to find common ground. 

Like neighbours on a street, good things happen when cities talk to one another.

“We benefited greatly from our visit to Edmonton, and will be bringing our insights back to Winnipeg. Infill is a national issue and it’s so great to know that our prairie cities can lean on each other for insights and lessons,” Mahe proudly stated.

Thank you to the following City of Edmonton staff who provided their time and expertise during the two-day visit: Jason Syvixay, Carley Holt, Michael Doyle, Darbi Kinnee, Sean Bohle, Anne Huizinga, Kim Petrin, Lyla Peter, Anlin Wen, Gail Hickmore, Kenneth Yeung, Trevor Illingworth, Colton Kirsop, Kalen Anderson, Kevin Tomalty, Robert Moore, Jordan McArthur, and David Holdsworth. Special thanks to EFCL (Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues), YEGarden Suites, IDEA (Infill Development in Edmonton Association), and Accent Infills for sharing their insights.