Oxford lot draw showcased support for a sustainable Edmonton

Being green doesn’t always mean being popular. But the success of a recent lot draw to sell 43 City-owned lots in a new Edmonton neighbourhood gives us plenty of reason to believe that our citizens are ready to take on the challenge of living more sustainably.

The City of Edmonton is trying something new in the community of Oxford. Our goal is to create a neighbourhood that offers a varied mix of modern, stylish housing types – including walk-out lake lots, duplexes and even multi-family units – all united by the common theme of sustainability. Houses on the single-family, duplex and secondary suite-serviced lots will be required to meet increased standards for energy efficiency and conservation. Interested buyers were required to take part in a unique public lot draw process to purchase a lot in Oxford.

The City sells undeveloped real estate through lot draws only every few years.  Turnout for these draws is usually very high – the last public lot draw was in 2006 and over 1,500 people registered for the chance to buy one of 75 lots in the Brintnell area.

But this time around our Corporate Properties team wasn’t sure if this draw would hold quite the same popular appeal. We thought Oxford’s stricter efficiency standards might scare off potential land buyers.

We gained a better idea of potential interest in Oxford after we hosted a fairly well-attended public information session two days prior to registration day. This was the first stage in our three stage plan for the lot draw: an information session, the registration process and the lot draw itself.

The evening information session was intended to help set the tone for Oxford as a unique development. We wanted to clearly explain the above-standard environmental sustainability requirements, and also describe two different incentive programs the City is offering builders to help them achieve even greater environmental results. This was an important step. We wanted everyone to become familiar with the development expectations in this new neighbourhood, essentially to highlight the message that any buyers who want to build in Oxford must be serious about sustainability.

The next stage was the lot draw registration. Even though we were uncertain as to how many people would show up to register, we’d decided early on to limit registration to a maximum of 200 people. We figured if the crowds did come, this limit would keep the draw manageable while still maintaining fairly strong odds for those participating.

In retrospect it was a pretty wise decision, because boy, did the crowds come.

On November 15, 2012 the halls of the northeast corner of City Hall were crowded with people before the sun was even up – some arriving as early as 4 am to get their spot in line. As the time drew close to 8:30 am when the event would begin, prospective land buyers were handed a numbered card and then proceeded to line up to register.

Because there were so many more people interested in Oxford than there were spots, those who arrived later had to be turned away. Unfortunate as it was to have to turn some people away, it was also really encouraging to see such high levels of interest from all types of people. This indicated to us that these buyers want to not only build great houses but also want to take part in setting a new standard for environmental sustainability in Edmonton.

The pre-planning was highly effective; the crowd was eager but patient and registration went smoothly. It was neat to see the process take shape.

November 28 was the third and final step in the process: the Oxford lot draw. This event took place at the Central Lion’s Senior Centre and the auditorium was nearly full with the 200 registered lot-draw hopefuls and their business partners, friends and family. Some studied the neighbourhood maps and specs quietly, while others huddled to discuss what choice they would make if their name was drawn. As the drum containing the name of the registrants was rolled and the names selected one at time, the excitement was noticeable.

After each name was drawn, the successful lot buyer was invited to the front of the auditorium where he or she could choose one of the lots available, and fill out the appropriate paperwork. (Some members of the audience even got cheers when their name was pulled!). A large overhead map indicated which lots were selected so prospective buyers could keep track of which ones remained.

Emcee Bill Covey, Director of Property Sales for Corporate Properties, continued to express his thanks to the crowd throughout the night; for their patience going through the registration process (including the pre-dawn arrivals and that long lineup!), and even more so for their desire to support Oxford’s green building standards. Councillor Kim Krushell also gave a short address to thank the buyers for their interest in creating this new, sustainable neighbourhood.

To many Edmontonians this neighbourhood will be a must-watch. It will serve as an example of City-supported sustainability and will also be a pilot project to see how this standard might be more widely applied throughout the City in the future. And, after seeing the interest these lots generated, it’s easy to imagine the public and the homebuilding industry being enthusiastic participants in that new standard.

Listen to the Edmonton This Week interview on the Oxford Development.