Edmonton CDC: People First Community Development

Update on transfer of land at the former Paskins site/Little Italy Community Garden.

Edmonton Community Development Company (ECDC) may be one of the newer kids on the block, but has actually been an aspiration of community folks for dozens of years. It finally got legs at the Mayor’s Taskforce to End Poverty, now called End Poverty Edmonton (EPE). While there are many CDCs in the United States, only a handful exist in Canada. CDCs share a common mandate to address social and economic challenges through the development of affordable housing, local businesses (including social and micro enterprises), and job training and fostering the creation of living wage jobs for low income workers. As well, intentions also include helping to build capacity in neighbourhoods to optimize local leadership and to ensure community engagement is authentic and occurs early on with residents and other stakeholders.

Established officially in early 2017 the ECDC began its life with five years of core funding from the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Community Foundation, the United Way, and Homeward Trust. Later that year, the Stollery Charitable Foundation join the effort with three years of funding. As well, the City committed to transfer parcels of surplus land to the Edmonton CDC valued at $10 million and has also provided some pre-development funds to help seed projects.

Our current priorities are to deliver on our mandate in the urban core and in neighbourhoods to the north, working with community stakeholders to enhance, rehabilitate, or create local businesses, develop empty lots, undertake new construction, and increase the availability of housing at the lower end of market, if not below market.

One of the parcels of land coming to the Edmonton CDC is in McCauley: the former Paskins site where the community garden had been operating and which includes the yellow building at the north end of those lots as well as the lay down site to the south of the gardens. We expect to finalize the land transfer contract in the next few months with the City. However, once a land transfer contract has been finalized, the Edmonton CDC has four years to take possession. Our intention is to take possession of any land transferred to us at such time when we are ready to develop. This helps us to avoid the expense of paying property tax and required maintenance of the land, which means the City remains responsible for the land until such time.

I understand that community members are disappointed that the community gardens did not take place this summer. This was not the ECDC’s decision as we do not own the land yet. I have expressed to the City that we have no issues with the land being used as a community garden. In fact, we do not anticipate developing on the land until the fall of 2019 at the earliest, which means that the possibility of using the land for a garden in 2019 does exist.

Currently, we envision beginning community engagement about what to do with the Paskins site sometime next summer. We want to make sure that what is developed there is aligned with community needs and aspiration and adds value to Revitalization efforts.

Other work under way includes exploring possibilities with the City’s efforts in the Quarters related to the relocation of the Graphic Arts Building which would become a part of the ECDC’s portfolio. Early discussions are under way about the possibility of the ECDC leading efforts to revitalize the Iron Works building on 96 Street. As well, we have just begun connecting with groups doing social enterprise work, in order to identify possible collaborations that can increase impact, especially with respect to job creation and adding to the local economy.

For more information, give me a call at (780) 299-0780 or write me at mholmgren@edmontoncdc.org. We are currently developing a new website at www. edmontoncdc.org.

Mark is the Executive Director of the ECDC.

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