Liberty Quarters | Simply CAPITAL – The Calgary Herald
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Simply CAPITAL – The Calgary Herald

Edmonton to revitalize inner-city areas

-Marty Hope
Calgary Herald
New Condos section – pages 1 & 2
© The Calgary Herald 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008


A radical transformation is starting to take shape for “downtrodden” areas on the shoulder of downtown Edmonton, mirroring what is being planned for The Rivers district on the east side of downtown Calgary.


Two projects, in particular, are breaking ground in an attempt to attract people to Edmonton’s core to live, work and play.


An independent report to the City of Edmonton predicts 1.9 million people could be living in the provincial capital by 2041.


Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel says if only five per cent of newcomers choose to live in downtown, it would add nearly 50,000 to the core’s population.


A partnership of Carma Developers and Urban Landmarks has received city approval to begin development of Aurora. At completion, it is expected Aurora will have five highrise towers and three mid- and low-rise buildings.


The second part of the transformation is called The Quarters Downtown, a bold revitalization plan being led by the City of Edmonton that will cover 18 city blocks east of 97 Street within walking distance of downtown.


The first phase is a major renovation of an existing building by Alumni Development Group called Liberty Quarters.


Sales within this affordable housing development are already underway.
While renovation continues to Liberty, Edmonton’s city council has given rezoning approval for the first major new building in The Quarters — the ValleyView by Vinterra Properties. The 16-storey, 62-unit ValleyView building would occupy a parking lot south of Jasper Avenue at 96th Street. It would sit directly in front of St. Barbara’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The highrise could see retail shops on the main floor with offices on the second, all topped by condo apartments.


Besides housing, The Quarters Downtown will also include a major park, historical area, and a site for government buildings.


But the overall focus of the two developments is to inject life into parts of Edmonton’s downtown that have become a blight on the capital — and, in turn, attract consumers looking for the opportunity to live close to their places of work.


“These areas have been depressed for some time,” says Walter Trocenko, City of Edmonton manager of special projects. “We’re hoping that these projects will lead to a major transformation and encourage investment in this part of Edmonton.”


Like Calgary, the Edmonton developments are attempts to take back the streets, attracting developers, builders, homebuyers and business operators by presenting a people-friendly environment.


“Both sites are in areas that have been designated for redevelopment and butt up against the downtown,” says an industry official who requested anonymity.


The Quarters Downtown will help transform the area from a “downtrodden former commercial site/residential site that has almost more parked cars than people — there are 2,400 people currently in the area,” says a city officials.


Located two blocks from the downtown and the river valley and a half-block off Jasper Avenue, Alumni president Natasha Stenzel says she expects young singles will be attracted to Liberty because of its location and the price.


In 1981, Liberty opened as an affordable housing project backed by the federal government, but it was sold to a private company in 2000.


Last year, Alumni purchased the property and has done massive renovations to suites and common areas to bring it to the marketplace.


The Quarters, a concept approved by council in 2005, aims to turn an area of parking lots and rundown buildings into a lively area of shops and perhaps 12,000 new residents.


Its boundaries are 103A Avenue, the top of the river valley, 92nd and 97th streets.


The centre of the project is to be a park-like boulevard along 96th Street. The Valleyview building will stand at the southern end of that boulevard.


“We are work in progress, aiming for council by the end of 2008 with the amended area redevelopment plan, new zoning and the urban design plan,” says Kathleen Young, project manager in the special projects department of the City of Edmonton. “We will then follow with the community revitalization plan and the bylaw — and likely a significant borrowing bylaw.”


Two- and three-bedroom townhouses ranging from 990 to 1,180 square feet, and with a 22-foot by 24-foot yard, are priced between $294,900 and $314,900.


The 630-square-foot apartments are priced from $267,900 to $289,900.


There will be four different design schemes called Central Park, Broadway, Greenwich and Soho — each of which will work with different colours and finishing materials.


“Liberty is an opportunity for average buyers to get a jump on affordable development in the area while encouraging other developers to help really get the ball rolling,” says Stenzel.


Alumni has gone beyond undertaking the renovation of the Liberty, but has taken their clean-up operations to the streets.


The development team has gone out with bags to collect litter from roadsides and lanes and donated trash cans to many neighbouring homes. “We’re here to help make the community better, and that means working outside our walls as well as within them,” says Stenzel.