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Blatchford, Edmonton: Building a Community on Sustainability and Green Infrastructure

Jun 16, 2023  
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The first authorized airfield in Canada, known as City Centre Airport, was established in 1927 on a 144-acre land just north of Downtown Edmonton. Initially serving as a military airbase during World War II, it later became a stop for international passenger flights between North America and Asia in the 1950s.

However, as jet technology advanced during the Cold War era, the limited runway space at City Centre Airport became a significant obstacle. After years of debates, the airport officially closed its operations in 2013.
In its place, a new planned community called Blatchford emerged. Blatchford aims to be a carbon-neutral neighborhood built on renewable energy and green infrastructure. As part of its twenty-year development plan, the community focuses on planting urban trees. This effort has already begun on Airport Road.

City Centre Airport played a crucial role in the history of Canadian aviation. Notable pilots, such as Wop May and Howard Peter Blatchford, were associated with the airport. During World War II, it served as a training school for Royal Canadian Air Force flyers.
In the postwar period, City Centre Airport continued to thrive and became part of an international route operated by Northwest Airlines, connecting Okinawa, Manila, and Taipei. However, as larger and heavier jets were introduced, the airport’s short runways designed for prop aircraft became inadequate.

By the mid-1990s, Edmonton International Airport, located on the south side of the city and opened in 1960, became the primary regional air traffic hub. City Centre Airport was mainly used for air charter and medevac flights until its official closure in 2013.
Recognizing the approaching obsolescence of City Centre Airport, Edmonton officials began planning for the future use of the land. In 2009, the city council voted to close the airport gradually and replace it with a sustainable community named Blatchford.
Blatchford’s plans involve creating a carbon-neutral neighborhood with a focus on green practices. The housing in Blatchford will accommodate up to 30,000 residents, and the development process emphasizes renewable energy, public transit, district energy, green spaces, and efficient urban design.

The goal is to surpass Alberta’s sustainability requirements by 37%, aiming for some of the greenest homes in the province. The community aims to be inclusive by providing affordable townhomes and apartments.
After the final closure of City Centre Airport in November 2013, the preparations for Blatchford began immediately. The project included the removal and recycling of existing buildings and debris, including the aircraft runways.
Sustainability and green spaces are fundamental principles of the neighborhood, with thoughtful design of energy, water, transportation, and waste management systems to reduce environmental impact. The integration of green spaces provides both environmental benefits and recreational areas for residents.

To meet Edmonton’s requirement of 17 cubic meters of soil volume per tree, a suspended pavement system with Silva Cells was installed on streets like Airport Road. In late 2022, five trees were planted using this system. The construction team, PME Inc., selected Silva Cells based on successful installations in previous streetscape projects.
Blatchford has already gained recognition for its innovative approach to community-building, receiving the Best New Community in Canada Award from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association at the National Awards for Housing Excellence.

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