A New Heart for Mill Woods

Forty years ago a unique planning process, the Mill Woods Development Concept, was set to transform urban development in Edmonton. The goal for Mill Woods was straightforward – create a place for people, a community with a strong sense of place, well connected to its surroundings.

Planning for Mill Woods began in 1969 to create a new city in a suburban environment that would one day be home to 120,000 people. Edmonton’s mayor at the time, Ivor Dent, described Mill Woods as having the potential to become a showpiece for urban growth. Mill Woods Town Centre was planned to be the urban heart of Mill Woods. Housing, shops, services and employment would be within a short walk of high speed transit and well connected through high quality public parks and open spaces.

This plan was never fully realized. The economy weakened through the 1980s. The pulse of Mill Woods Town Centre slowed as an LRT extension from downtown failed to materialize, residential densities came in lower then anticipated and commercial development took on a very car-oriented form.

Today there is new commitment to expand and invest in public transit. It is no longer a question if LRT service will arrive in Mill Woods but rather when. City Council has approved the concept of an LRT line to Mill Woods, and preliminary engineering work has begun. As a result we need to do things differently, plan our neighbourhoods better and encourage greater transit usage in more compact and walkable communities.

Recently, we held our first public workshop to introduce the station area planning project for Mill Woods Town Centre. The Mill Woods Station Area Plan will explore opportunities for transit oriented development in Mill Woods Town Centre in advance of the arrival of LRT to Mill Woods. What we heard at our first workshop was a desire to firmly establish Mill Woods Town Centre as a focal point -a vibrant and exciting downtown – for Mill Woods.

We’re excited to get underway with exploring how we as planners, in collaboration with residents and property owners, can begin to revisit and enhance Mill Wood’s urban heart.  Through the station area planning process we seek to transform the neighbourhood into something which better embodies the quality and character of the Mill Woods community. To quote from the 1970 Plan for Mill Woods, “The Mill Woods residents will look to their town centre for stimulation and enjoyment. Every effort should be directed to achieve this result.” Sometimes looking backwards provides the greatest direction to move forward.

Your comments are always welcome as we move forward with the Mill Woods Station Area Plan. Contact information and additional information is provided on the Mill Woods Station Area Plan webpage.