First-time homebuyers often face a dilemma: buy a modest home with a tiny backyard in order to live close to downtown or invest in more square footage in suburbia but expect a lengthy commute. It’s the kind of compromise homeowners in Edmonton’s central oasis of Blatchford don’t need to worry about. The unique neighbourhood just northwest of downtown has it all: residential diversity, affordability, walkability and a village culture.
Blatchford is putting down roots on the former site of Canada’s first licensed airfield - the Edmonton City Centre Airport - which closed in 2013. Developing such a large, urban parcel of land for a community of 30,000 people has been a dream for development manager Tom Lumsden.
- Energy Centre One - Stormwater Pond
“I’ve been on the project for two years and, before I came to the project, 536 acres 10 minutes from the downtown core is like a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Lumsden said. “I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. You’ll never see this kind of land mass in a central location like it is.”
While the central location makes the neighbourhood desirable for families, Blatchford’s sustainable vision is what has people talking. The community will forgo boilers, air conditioners and furnaces for a centralized District Energy Sharing System (DESS) that will provide homes with hot water, cooling and heating. You can already see this hub – called Energy Centre One - on site. In phase one, the system utilizes geothermal energy. The vision for Blatchford is a carbon neutral community and developers have prioritized sustainability from the very beginning. Lumsden says when they had to remove buildings from the site, contractors were required to divert at least 80 per cent of materials from the landfill.
- Credit: Ocheller Homes
“That’s part of our sustainability efforts on this project,” Lumsden said. “They achieved over 90 per cent of that. So that was a positive kind of movement from an environmental perspective.”
Blatchford’s first residents are expected to move into their townhomes this month. By the end of August, Lumsden expects residents will see a park, wetlands, a view deck and walkways.
Kerri-lyn Holland is excited about the community’s “village feel” - which creates the vibe of a city within a city – without an exorbitant price tag.
“It’s bringing such diversity to an infill neighbourhood and that’s what we’re excited about,” Holland said. “This is going to give that affordability - the nice price range from condos all the way up to single family homes. It’s a nice diversity that I think was lacking in the infill market.”
This is just the beginning for the community, which will be under development until 2042. In time, the neighbourhood will offer plaza areas, playgrounds, gardens, and an orchard. An air traffic control tower and other heritage features are woven into the community to pay homage to its history.
“The architecture that some of the builders are putting into the development- it’s unique from my point of view,” Kerri-lyn Holland said. “They’re actually going through the extra step of creating more architecturally-interesting properties in Blatchford. That’s one thing that is nice to see: the creativity. They are opening people’s minds.”
- Credit: Encore Master Builder
The neighbourhood is surrounded by numerous amenities – Kingsway Mall, large big-name stores, and the former Oiler’s office which now houses the Alberta Associates of Obstetrics and Gynecology medical office. The community will connect to other parts of the city via walking and bike paths, along with two LRT stations. Holland appreciates being able to choose from a variety of transportation after enjoying the car-free lifestyle in Europe for seven years.
“This goes back to that European mentality of walkability. It’s creating an actual subculture in Edmonton that people don’t have to drive cars. People can walk or ride their bikes. You’re giving somebody a choice.”
Developers aim to make Blatchford one of the biggest sustainable communities in Canada and potentially the world. Homebuyers putting a stake in that vision and lifestyle won’t face the compromise we’ve all come to expect. In Blatchford, they can zip home from downtown in just a few minutes and lounge in the kind of space urban dwellers only dream of.