Edmonton is selling the former municipal airport lands as a sustainable, inner-city community unlike any other, and people are buying.
“Here in Blatchford, the vision is to create one of the world’s largest sustainable communities,” said Adam Laughlin, the deputy city manager of infrastructure.
“It will be home to up to 30,000 Edmontonians.”
Today, only 11 families call the neighbourhood home. But those homes are stylish and environmentally savvy, designed using a green building code.
“The first stage of this development aims to use 100 per cent renewable energy, be carbon neutral and empower its residents to pursue a range of sustainable life choices,” Laughlin explained.
That attracted Kim McLeod-Ireland to the area.
“My reason was more for the net-zero, having availability with the geothermal units, solar panels, being a little more energy conscious on our environment,” she said.
Instead of having a natural gas furnace, McLeod-Ireland’s home harvests heat from the ground, through a geothermal heat pump.
Her family moved into the community in January, and are among the very first to lay down roots in Blatchford.
“We’ll be able to tell our kids and our grandchildren, ‘Hey, we were here first, check out these pictures and see how it grew.’ I’m looking forward to that.”
So far, she loves the pedestrian focus of the neighbourhood.
“In front of our homes, we don’t have parking and driving — this is all going to be community walking,” she said, pointing to pathways out her front window.
Her husband, Sam Ireland, said as a realtor, the cost of the home initially gave him pause — until he thought about the other ways he’d save money.
“The initial sticker cost was higher, but the monthly costs are probably, over the long term, going to be less,” he said.
Plus, he’s excited about being centrally located.
“If I’m not commuting an hour to get home everyday, that’s an hour more time I get to spend with my kids and my wife.”
Tegan Martin-Drysdale is the president of Ocheller Homes, one of three companies building homes as part of Stage 1.
She’s been advocating for this development for nearly a decade.
“When the conversation of Blatchford came up — shutting down the airport — the opportunity was unprecedented. Five-hundred-thirty-six acres in the heart of a downtown core,” she explained.
“You’ve got Kingsway Mall, you’ve got the hospital right there, you’ve got the downtown core five minutes away. You’ve got bike paths that connect you to the south to the river valley. And that’s before anything has even been developed commercially or any amenities in the actual community itself,” she said.
The community will also be connected to public transit.
“Once the LRT comes in, I’m definitely going to be using that for going places,” explained 16-year-old Cayson Ireland.
Martin-Drysdale said her company is building eight units of housing as part of stage one – with five already sold.
“Sales are strong because we’re just bringing our showhome open here in the next two weeks and we expect to sell out as soon as our showhome is available for people to walk through and see.”
She added the community is being held up as a model for future residential development.
“All eyes are on Blatchford right now. From other municipalities and I feel like it is a privilege to be building there.”
And even though the pandemic is preventing new neighbours from gathering, the area’s first residents are bonding through social media.
“The people around here have so far been really nice and like-minded people, because we were all looking for this community that is eco-friendly,” Cayson said.
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