City of Edmonton’s Making Space podcast brings zoning back to earth for people

Jane Leadbeater has been living in Edmonton for 15 years, thinking about zoning for seven and listening to podcasts for five. The new Making Space podcast is hitting home—and work—for her.  

“I love the podcast,” said Leadbeater. 

“You don’t have to be a zoner or an engineer or a developer or an urbanist or an expert of any type to appreciate the stories of people that are at the heart of Making Space,” she said.

“The mistake is that sometimes we think zoning is this rigorous, scientific discipline, and it is that. But it’s really about people and how people experience their city, and this podcast helps us to remember that.”

The Making Space podcast—the City of Edmonton’s first—features five episodes, all of which have now dropped. Find the episodes and transcripts on the Transforming Edmonton blog site, or listen wherever you get your podcasts. 

The Making Space podcast is hosted by Jennifer Renner.

The lineup

Episode 1: The Million Dollar Parking Lot. What is the cost of regulating the number of parking spaces for every development? And, more importantly, who pays for it?  The episode features Carola Cunningham, CEO, Niginan Housing Ventures.

Episode 2: Whose Home? With new supportive housing sites opening soon in Edmonton, a timely look at how policy and people might shift to provide housing for all. Susan McGee, CEO, Homeward Trust, shares her perspective.

Episode 3: At Your Discretion. Chris Hoit of A1 Pawn Edmonton guests with host Jennifer Renner to consider some fundamental questions. Where do buildings and businesses go and why? Who decides and what are the lasting impacts—intended or not—of those decisions?

Episode 4: Connecting The Dots. More good questions in this episode. What do you live within 15 minutes of? How can we plan our city to bring people and businesses closer to the things they need. Cherie Klassen, Executive Director, Old Strathcona Business Association, takes the mic.

Episode 5: What Does Better Look Like? How can we rethink zoning to address the evolving needs of different communities? are among the questions directed at Chris Dulaba, Placemaker, Beljan Development

The City of Edmonton’s Catrin Owen moderated the livestreamed panel discussion on all things zoning. L-R: Livia Balone, Director, Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative, City of Edmonton; Cherie Klassen, Executive Director, Old Strathcona Business Association; Chris Dulaba, Placemaker, Beljan Development; Catrin Owen, Deputy City Manager, City of Edmonton; Susan McGee, CEO, Homeward Trust, Blake Jackman, Program Manager of Housing, Niginan Housing Ventures; and, Shauna Kuiper, General Supervisor, Urban Strategies, Planning, City of Edmonton.

Big questions

Making Space podcast guests joined City of Edmonton planning and zoning officials for a livestreamed panel discussion on June 28, 2022, at Beljan Development’s Oliver Exchange, near 121 Street and 102 Avenue

Moderator Catrin Owen, the Deputy City Manager of Communications and Engagement, took the panelists and the audience through a kind of zoning survey course. What is zoning at its essence and why does it matter? How has zoning influenced housing availability and the equity issues of who lives where and how they live? Why does the Oliver Exchange Building work? Why do nodes and corridors matter to Business Improvement Areas? Why is the notion of 15-minute cities so valuable for city building? What role do preservation and heritage play in the future city? What are the real-world obstacles that prevent positive zoning changes from taking place?

L-R, Livia Balone, Director, Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative, City of Edmonton, Klassen and Dulaba tackle zoning issues raised in the Making Space podcast.

“I would love to see what our city could do…”

Klassen made explicit the point that zoning—basically, the rules for how land can be used and what can be built where—determines how and if and to what extent people live and grow in their city together. 

“We have really cool developments that could happen, that could be really innovative, that could be providing places for startups and entrepreneurs because it’s affordable,” Klassen said. “Or a place for someone’s first home that has never been able to afford a home before.”

Klassen said fear of what might happen when zoning happens can get in the way and can obscure the possibilities for positive change.

“I would love to see what our city could do, and the creative people that are here already could do, in our city to create really innovative spaces and buildings for people who are creative and innovative,” she said. 

Dulaba brought the message of mixed-use development to the Making Space podcast

Mixed-use message

Beljan’s Dulaba said the planning pendulum has swung away from imagining land uses (residential, commercial, industrial and institutional/public) in a narrow way. 

“There was a period of time where we saw a lot of those types of uses compartmentalized, you know, residential was strictly residential, notwithstanding maybe a minor home business in your business,” Dulaba said. 

“But over the years we have realized that that type of segregation wasn’t really conducive to building good neighbourhoods and communities,” he said. “We’re starting to see this go back to the way land use used to be dealt with when mixed-use was a big thing one hundred-plus years ago.” 

Find the City’s Making Space podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.

Mixed-use thumbs up

Dulaba’s mixed-use message was music to Leadbeater’s podcast-listening (and professional) ears. 

“The variations that mixed-use allows is what delivers the vibrant experiences in daily city life,” said Leadbeater, a former City of Edmonton communications professional who now works as the Manager, Placemaking and Activation, for Innovate Edmonton. 

Leadbeater said the podcast and its focus on Edmontonians will help expand the members of the exclusive club who understand the importance of zoning. 

“The podcast is a level-setting conversation,” she said. “Knowledge is power and the podcast helps more people know more about zoning, and that’s exciting.” 

Leadbeater made a bold prediction.

“I believe the podcast will actually get some people to be more excited about attending public information sessions in the city, I really do!”

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows, left to right, Catrin Owen, City of Edmonton, Susan McGee, Homeward Trust and Blake Jackman, Program Manager of Housing for Niginan Housing Ventures, during the Making Space podcast panel discussion, June 28, 2022, at the Oliver Exchange. Dig in here if you want to know more about the City’s Zoning Bylaw Renewal Initiative.

Making Space podcast host Jennifer Renner in the studio zone, May 2022.