'It takes time to take off': Blatchford developers optimistic about gradual progress
The City of Edmonton says the Blatchford development at the former City Centre Airport site is "poised to take off," with all available parcels of land either sold or pending sale to builders.
That means approximately 1,100 residential units are slated to start being built this year, with a mix of townhomes and four to six-storey apartment-style places with commercial opportunities.
According to the original plan approved in 2014, there were supposed to be 2,750 homes at the site by now out of a planned 30,000. At a grand opening ceremony on Thursday, developers celebrated 36 units occupied and another approximately 50 that are move-in-ready.
"Any new community takes time to bring to market," said Tom Lumsden, Blatchford's development manager. "It takes time to take off."
"We finally have seen some activity," Lumsden added. "We have people living here. We have two stages built, and we have interest in every single parcel. We have two more stages we are going to build this year."
He added that weather permitting, the project hopes to have Airport Road to 109 Street by NAIT connected by the end of this construction season.
"The last plane took off from Blatchford Nov. 30, 2013," Lumsden said. "Our first homeowner moved in Oct. 24, 2020. Seven years from an active airport on this kind of a development to people living there, I will suggest, is probably fast."
Tim Cartmell, ward pihêsiwin councillor, believes the project is being held back by affordability.
"The residential units at Blatchford are very much on the expensive side," Cartmell said. "I think we really need to examine how we can take those costs down so that they are more competitive with the market.
"When you compare to other infill developments in more of the core neighbourhood, or you compare to new developments at the edge of the city, Blatchford is not priced competitively," he told CTV News Edmonton.
In his eyes, the benefits of the community sell themselves, with a renewable district energy system and ready-to-use walkable amenities, yet the uptick remains slow.
"To be just a couple of LRT stops away from downtown, the core, and arena district and from there just a few more stops from the university or stadium precinct. Honestly, Blatchford should have everything going for it that, frankly, a suburban development does not have," Cartmell added.
Lumsden recognized that the units available to prospective buyers now represent some of the most expensive developments at Blatchford. According to him, the site is expected to be fully developed by 2038.
"Once we get more building types, then the affordability will change," he said, adding that the site will meet a 16 per cent affordable housing unit target with a spectrum of near-market to supportive housing homes.
Market demand will drive how fast the city proceeds with further stages of development, Lumsden said.
"Blatchford embodies the vision of what Edmontonians want their city to be — a healthy, urban, climate resilient and prosperous community," said Coun. Anne Stevenson, representing Ward O-day'min.
"I’m proud of this work and the opportunity we’ve been given to transform an urban space into a true 15-minute community," she added in a statement.
The city will host a public grand opening event on Saturday with tours, open houses, and opportunities to meet with the development team.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Joe Scarpelli