News / Edmonton

Edmonton heritage homes could get protection boost

City outlines recommendations to encourage builders and homeowners not demolish heritage homes

Leigh Matheson, a heritage preservation advocate, says it’s important the city protects Edmonton’s old neighbourhoods.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Leigh Matheson, a heritage preservation advocate, says it’s important the city protects Edmonton’s old neighbourhoods.

Edmonton heritage homes awaiting official designation may get extra protection if the city approves a new plan to help ward off demolition.

City officials provided recommendations at the urban planning committee Wednesday to develop a “special area zoning” plan, which would ensure construction of new homes would be compatible with the heritage character of some streets.

It would also mean lots couldn't be split.

“Subdivision will result in further heritage losses and the city will be the poorer for it,” said Barbara Finlay, a heritage advocate with the Old Glenora Conservation Association.

Currently, homes listed on the city’s heritage inventory can be demolished when builders come in to construct new homes in their place.

Leigh Matheson, also with the Old Glenora Conservation Association, said preserving heritage properties is about striking a balance, pointing to developments like the Brewery District.

“We should strive to protect our cultural neighbourhoods,” she said. “Historical buildings are important because without them, we erase the past and the people who came before us.”

Leigh Matheson.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Leigh Matheson.

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But changes to the zoning policy won’t actually prevent the demolition of a property, according to staff.

Instead, it would make demolition “less inviting” because builders would have to design homes that align with a neighbourhood’s heritage character.

“That’s something we could be open for business on. It would be another tool in the tool box,” said Peter Ohm, head of city planning. “We want to have a process that requires the community to participate."

The city could force buildings to be designated as historical residences — which would protect it from demolition — but that would require Edmonton to pay a “substantial cost” to homeowners.

“There is no silver bullet, all these options are the best we can do right now,” Ohm said.

Mayor Don Iveson said the city has always wanted to preserve that heritage feel in neighbourhoods where the vibe is prominent.

“I think the next step is special areas of zoning where it makes sense,” he said.

The city will return later this year to report back on how Edmonton could develop the zoning policy.

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