Urban makeover a hit with Edmonton residents

A low-cost, small-scale urban makeover project in Edmonton may be receiving positive response from its residents, but the jury’s still out on the potential impact on the real estate market.

The initiative, taking place June 21 and dubbed DIYcity, is inviting local residents to beautify and increase the vibrancy of public areas in the city from street corners and alleyways to neighbourhood parks. Suggested activities range from sidewalk chalk murals and potted flowers on civic boulevards to more ambitious undertakings such as art installations.

Dreamed up by the municipally-run CITYlab in conjunction with a community building group called Make Something Edmonton, DIYcity doubles as a call-out for creative action, while serving as a miniature means of assessing future urban planning projects.

“Certainly for us, we typically engage in larger-scale projects such as roads, bridges or parks, which are all very expensive,” says Hani Quan, a principal planner in the CITYlab unit in the Sustainable Development Department with the City of Edmonton.

“These are all things we do, but wouldn’t it be great to test some of these things out by using very inexpensive, small-scale projects? DIYcity allows us to be creative and experiment with residents, so we can find out with them what will actually work best, rather than building a permanent construction project only to find out later that maybe it wasn’t fitting the needs of people we were trying to serve.”

Edmonton Real Estate Board President Geneva Tetreault says the organization doesn’t normally run statistics on the effects of urban makeovers and artistic endeavours on community housing, but any activity falling under those categories would likely benefit the real estate industry and homeowners in particular.

“Obviously, different amenities can improve the value of your house,” says Tetreault. “As a neighbourhood becomes more desirable, that’s a good thing for a housing price.”

But ReMax realtor Kelly Rissling believes other civic trends, especially infill housing in older neighbourhoods, have a larger positive effect on a neighbourhood’s ability to attract residents. Still, he’s noticed an effect of urban makeovers on particular buyers.

“I see a bigger difference when I deal with people from out of town going through particular neighbourhoods,” says Rissling. “They see the ones that have been spruced up and money being put into entranceways and flower beds and park greenspaces in older neighbourhoods that have been built up. People really like that, especially if they come from an area where it’s more popular like either in the U.S. or down east.”

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