Our graduate studio course (PLAN 595) pairs teams of Master's students with real world clients, for short projects. Here are the summaries from recent work:
Planning for the Missing Middle in Edmonton project sponsor: City of Edmonton
This project examined what conditions need to be met in order to nurture the development of “Missing Middle” (ie. medium density) housing types in Edmonton, specifically in the infill context. The research conducted for this report began with an exploratory literature review and best practices scan, with the preliminary aim of understanding how the term “Missing Middle” has been conceptualized, the common obstacles that prevent many Missing Middle housing developments from being realized in different municipalities. This provided the context and background necessary to conduct a case study analysis of the factors impacting the feasibility of Missing Middle housing in three mature neighbourhoods in Edmonton: Oliver, Ottewell, and Spruce Avenue. Additionally, sixteen stakeholder interviews were conducted with community representatives, development industry representatives, and city planning staff during this phase of the research in order to gain an insider perspective on the potential solutions for addressing Edmonton’s Missing Middle.
While Edmonton is not facing a housing crisis like some cities are, its regulations are significant barriers to building Missing Middle. A recent prevalence of Direct Control zoning is an obstacle to medium density feasibility. A challenge the City faces in this area of planning is respecting what residents like best about their neighbourhoods as they look now, while also planning adequately for the entire city’s future sustainability. In the short-term, the City should focus on encouraging the densification of existing low-to-medium density areas that contain a supportive mix of amenities. Ideal locations for Missing Middle infill projects to go in the near future are areas in the city with excess capacity in local schools, areas with moderate-to-low property values and older housing stock that may need to be replaced within the next 10 years are. Longer-term recommendations include pushing for a transition from high density in the core to medium density in mature neighbourhoods. Planning for infill should allow for flexibility while sticking to the goal of intensification in mature neighbourhoods. The City can also take steps to encourage more types of Missing Middle through the current zoning bylaw revisions. Overall, it is recommended that the City of Edmonton continue to pursue its ongoing efforts to nurture the development of medium-density typologies that satisfy the physical,social, and financial criteria which define Edmonton’s Missing Middle housing needs.
Leduc Downtown Parking Study project sponsor: City of Leduc
The intention of the study was to provide an understanding of parking supply, parking behaviours, and management practices to advance Leduc’s Downtown Master Plan. Raw data for the study was captured by photographing the entire study every 30 minutes using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) on two days (a Wednesday and a Saturday). To supplement the UAV images, rich duration data was collected by clocking in and out times for vehicles in various parts of the study area. This data was collected in 6 pre-determined regions throughout the study area over 5 days during peak hours. The study generated a series of contextually sensitive recommendations to manage parking in downtown Leduc:
Create a communications and education campaign
- Add additional parking stalls in the northeast portion of the study area
- Introduce a number of rapid parking stalls (15 minutes or less) in strategic areas
- Conduct ongoing analysis of parking behaviours
- Establish a consistent and targeted approach to parking enforcement
- Conduct a transportation network analysis
- Consider establishing a pay-for-parking program after the City of Leduc reaches a certain population threshold (60,000 people)
- Support the development of surface parking lots and a shared underground parking program
A multi-phased analysis of parking behaviours was conducted to establish these recommendations. The first phase centred on spatial analysis and determined the total number of parking stalls, the proportion of public and private ownership, and their distance from local businesses. This phase also included an analysis of the wayfinding signage related to parking in downtown Leduc. The second phase of analysis centred on usage and duration data and it was concluded that downtown Leduc does not have an overall parking supply issue but that some specific parts of the study area do fail. The analysis showed that the average duration of stay is generally low in most areas especially along Leduc’s Main Street corridor.
The results of this study were disseminated to the City of Leduc’s Administration on April 10, 2019, Leduc’s Downtown Business Association on May 10, 2019, and Leduc’s City Council on May 13, 2019.
Nisku Wildlife Corridor Report project sponsor: County of Leduc
The Nisku Wildlife Corridor Report is the culmination of a two phase project: Phase I consisted of a review of planning policy within the Nisku Area that recommended protecting and connecting Environmentally Significant Areas (ESA), and aligning all local, regional, and inter collaborative policies with those protections. The majority of ESAs were found to be along the Blackmud Creek Drainage Basin. Phase II built upon these recommendations and findings by conducting further evaluation on the benefits and drawbacks of creating a wildlife corridor in Nisku. SWOT and community benefits analyses, wildlife corridor best practices and re-established sites reviews, and research into the merits of wildlife corridors in developed industrial and urban areas showed that there is adequate space, multiple regional connections, and justifiable biodiversity for a wildlife corridor to be built and maintained in the Nisku Area. Phase II further bolstered the recommendation for the Nisku Wildlife Corridor to follow the Blackmud Creek Drainage Basin.
The preferred route provides ample room for wildlife movement and ecological systems functioning, passive recreation and educational opportunities, and regional connections to Saunders Lake and the Beaver Hills Biosphere. The route aids flood mitigation and groundwater preservation efforts through the re-naturalization of Blackmud Creek within the Nisku Area. Placing the majority of the proposed corridor within Blackmud Creek’s 1:100 year floodplain and proactively working with landowners and non-governmental organizations to naturalize flood prone areas encourages steady corridor development over time while minimizing potential conflicts with higher value properties. The agricultural benefits of wildlife corridors are also clear, providing both direct and indirect benefits by reducing soil erosion, enhancing pollination, increasing pest control and crop nutrients, and providing windbreaks.
Recommendations for implementing a wildlife corridor along Blackmud Creek include:
1. Completing a detailed biodiversity study for the Nisku Area;
2. Creating one, comprehensive Nisku Area Structure Plan that incorporates a wildlife corridor along Blackmud Creek within the 1:100 year flood plain; and
3. Partnering with private landowners, NGO’s, and regional stakeholders to begin re-naturalizing the 1:100 year floodplain lands.
To aid with implementing this corridor, or any others that Leduc County may consider, the research team has provided a Wildlife Corridor Criteria List to serve as a kick-off document for any future wildlife corridor planning and execution. Overall, the Nisku Wildlife Corridor Report lays the groundwork for creating a connected, biodiverse wildlife corridor in the Nisku Area by updating existing policy, following best practices, taking advantage of the recreational and agricultural merits of wildlife corridors, and promoting private and public cooperation and/or land acquisition.
Open Spaces Study project sponsor: Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board
On behalf of the EMRB, a team of graduate urban planning students investigated the existing conditions, and future needs for open space within the Edmonton Metropolitan Region (the Region), as well as identified opportunities for inter-municipal and regional collaboration. This project is intended to provide background research to inform a future Integrated Regional Open Space Master Plan (IROSMP). The main project objectives and findings are:
1. Open Spaces Definition and Classification - An Open Space is defined as a publicly-owned and/or publicly-accessible area of outdoor land or water that is environmentally significant, culturally significant, and/or is used for recreation with the Region. Four general groups were identified: parks, trails, environmentally significant areas, and special interest areas.
2. Future Needs Assessment - identifies service area gaps and opportunities for improvement in the coming years. The quantitative analysis highlights that the Region is well-equipped to handle even high population growth scenarios, with the exception of a need for regional parks. The observation component complements and moderates these findings with subjective aspects noted by the research team.
3. Guiding Principles - findings from the best practices and member municipality policy reviews offered insights to guiding principles for regional open space. The guiding principles identified were: connectivity, collaboration, stewardship, equity & wellness, and diversity.
4. Recommendations - the project team provided the EMRB with recommendations going forward