One floor of street-level retail, three of parking and 41 of condominiums. Stack them in that order and you’ve got the Emerald Tower, coming soon to Jasper Ave. Without the invisible ceiling once imposed by the City Centre Airport, such grand buildings like the Emerald could become the norm in Oliver. So what could this evolution in our skyline mean?
“We’re going to see housing take different kinds of forms, shapes and sizes,” says Kalen Anderson. The City’s director of planning coordination says towers like the Emerald and 2015’s the Pearl, which share a developer, are a natural part of any Canadian city’s growth. “We have to stretch ourselves to think differently about urban living,” says Anderson, citing the influx of residents, new commercial space and neighbourhood vibrancy as reasons to grow to such great heights. “It’s up to us to see what we can achieve with these tall buildings.”
Not everyone is pleased about the project in its current state. Dustin Martin, the OCL’s civics director, wished the project were altered before it was brought before city council—and approved—in June. “From the urban design perspective, it’s better to have more eyes on the street, more active uses, more vibrancy,” says Martin. And while that’s achieved by street-level retail, he explains, the same goal is hindered by the podium’s three stories of coloured glass with little inside them but empty cars and storage. This model drives down the price of each condominium unit (a win for proponents of affordable housing) but does nothing for Jasper’s safety or image, he says.
But from the perspective of Regency Developments, below-grade parking would add about $50,000 to each residential sale, thus pricing out a lot of homebuyers. The Pearl, which has underground parking, hardly broke even, developer Raj Dhunna told the Edmonton Journal.
Martin is also concerned about its enormous shadow. “We don’t want to see a wall of towers shadowing our public parks.” That impact could be somewhat mitigated by a $200,000 donation to the OCL by Regency.
“That’s not something that we asked for; it’s something that they offered,” Martin says of the cash, which could go toward beautifying parks, upgrading playground equipment or a new community hall.
According to Anderson, donations to affected communities are a normal means for communities to redeploy resources and mitigate the upheaval caused by large-scale projects. But the OCL would rather have seen their concerns addressed more concretely. “I like to think that city council takes the input of communities seriously,” says Martin, “but in this scenario it didn’t seem to go that way.”