Putting people into planning: The City Plan

Cities are alive. They’re more than condos and concrete, bridges and bricks. Cities change. They grow. They evolve.

Why?

Because cities are built by and for people.

And just like cities, people change too. Children grow up and start their own families. Others move here and start a new life. They bring new ideas, new visions for how they want to experience their future city.

As Edmonton’s population passes one million later this year, we have to think about the next one million people who will call the city home.

Where will they live? Where will they work? How will they get around? What will they create? What do they want to preserve for themselves and their families? 

Edmonton’s been here before.

Ten years ago. One hundred years ago and thousands of years before. The city we live in today was planned and built by previous generations.

Their decisions, their dreams shaped Edmonton into what it is today. It’s their gift to us. What gifts do we want to prepare?

It’s hard to stretch our minds to think of ages past, or of some far-off future, especially when you have bills to pay and groceries to pick up on the way home.

But the past matters. And so does the future.

So where do we start? What choices do we make today?

That’s what The City Plan is all about. The City Plan is our blueprint for how we get to that future city. How do you plan for the next one million people? You plan for people.

That’s why we talked to the people who will build our future city and live it.

In community halls, in shopping malls, online and on the road, you shared your voice. 

21 workshops. 23 meetings with regional Indigenous nations and organizations. 25 community meetings. 36 public engagements sessions. 41 school engagements. 21,308 survey responses. 

From these conversations, six Guiding Values emerged that shaped the city planning process:

Access. Belong. Create. Live. Preserve. Thrive.

From values to videos

But we didn’t want to just tell people what we heard. We wanted to show it. The Guiding Values video series showcased each value and featured someone from the community who embodies the value.

The Guiding Values videos are previews of what you want our future city to look and feel like.

Access

First, we heard that Edmontonians of all abilities want to access the same good things in their city as everyone else. Zachary Weeks, a local disability advocate, shared his dream of “a city that’s able to be fully accessed and enjoyed by everyone no matter what their ability or situation. That’s the way we’re going to make a more inclusive society.”

Belong

Whether we’ve lived here for generations or we’ve just arrived, everyone deserves to feel welcome, to be supported and to belong. 

“I think we are ‘citymates’ — all of us,” said Basel Abou Hamrah from the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. “When newcomers choose Edmonton, we should support them because Edmonton is our home and their home, too. So we’re in the same home.”

Create

Standing on centre stage, we heard from Alex Prior and Annemarie Petrov from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Winspear Centre. They told us how spaces for creativity and innovation are vital for connection in our future and how the ability to create makes Edmonton a great place to live.

“I think Edmonton’s going to be an incredible hotbed of creativity, a creative hub, a cultural hub…a place where creativity is celebrated and encouraged and given the opportunity, could become something really quite extraordinary,” said Petrov.

Live 

After time with Prior and Petrov, we headed to the Ritchie neighbourhood to hear from Candyce Morris, co-owner of Kind Ice Cream. She explained why it’s so important to have connection and community in the places where we live. 

“It can feel overwhelming to live in a big city, and I think having these small neighbourhoods that are really growing and that are walkable and have all these things happening can make you feel like you’re still living in a place where you can be connected to the people,” said Morris.

Preserve

In the halls of the University of Alberta, we talked to Dr. Stunden Bower, Associate Professor in the University’s History and Classics Department. She told us how all Edmontonians should have a voice in how to preserve our natural and built environments in the future.

“Becoming a place where a really representative cross-section of the population can be heard and where we can take into account the needs not just of humanity but also of non-human nature in the built and natural environment is very much an ongoing task,” said Bower.

Thrive

We put our hard hats on and went to Women Building Futures where we met Arlene Twin, who showed us how she’s helping women find ways to thrive in Edmonton.

“Having an understanding of the different walks of life, creating a safe environment, a safe city to live in, a city that is understanding, that has support to be able to accommodate the different types of people that are coming here is so important,” said Twin.

Public hearing

Not everything will change right away. While some changes will sprout quickly, others will take years to grow.

But by planting the right seeds now, we can work towards building a city that has access, a city where everyone feels that they belong, a city where people have the space and the inspiration to create, a city where people can connect with community and live, a city that has the ambition to make big changes and also the wisdom to preserve what matters, a city that helps people realize their potential and thrive.

But the future isn’t written yet. The real work starts now.

The City Plan goes to public hearing on September 14, 15 and 16.

Visit edmonton.ca/cityplan to learn more.