Missing middle: Edmonton residents, researcher weigh in on 80-storey tower
Edmonton’s Quarters neighbourhood could be more vibrant with smaller development, says U of A researcher
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Joelle Reiniger moved to Boyle Street three years ago for its proximity to the river valley. But she doesn’t want a 280 metre tower along the top bank to set the tone of future growth.
“It does stick out like a sore thumb,” Reiniger said, referring to the proposed, 80-storey Quarters Hotel and Residences.
“The river valley is Edmonton’s greatest asset.”
The mixed-use development, located on Jasper Avenue and Grierson Hill Road in the Quarters, “will turn underused and damaged land into a link,” according to Aldritt Land Corporation.
But Kurt Borth, a University of Alberta researcher who specializes in housing location, said the Quarters could instead benefit from "missing middle" housing.
Missing middle housing is a range of multi-unit or clustered housing in scale with single-family homes to meet urban living demands. Think Paris. Think parts of Toronto. Think New York.
He said missing middle developments make communities more vibrant, adding Edmonton’s Blatchford community is the closest thing the city has in that style right now.
“Putting up all this medium density would be great. It would be vibrant,” he said. “But then there’s the timeline of getting it done.”
Other key, smaller Quarters developments include the Marriot Hotel, a container housing project and the “Artists Quarters,” a nearly net-zero project for artists’ residences and affordable housing.
Brent Toderian, who was the centre city planning manager for Calgary, couldn’t comment on the proposal. But in regards to making general city-making values, he said mature cities don’t feel the need to “be the tallest at the expense of its values.”
He noted the City of Calgary chose to trim the size of the Bow, a tower designed by Foster and Partners, so that it didn’t cast shadows at key times on the river.
“It said a lot about us, I think, that we didn’t let a ‘we’re the biggest’ ego statement lead us to make the wrong decision,” he said.
David Benjestorf, who represents Alldritt Land Corporation, said the company chose to build the tower tall for a number of reasons.
He said density and unit count displace the high development costs, which included environmental remediation. He said there will also be costs to provide additional parking stalls and a two-acre public park.
There’s also history to the site, he added, noting the Alldritt family always intended to build something “iconic” on the land.
Reiniger said she hopes the tower, if approved, doesn’t cause other developers to also go big.
“I do think there’s a place for tall towers in the city,” she said. “But I don’t think we need one embedded into the river valley bank. We need to be very cautious about making an extreme departure from the height limits.”