Edmonton | One comment
By: Zdenko Kahlina, pictures by: IKAN on C2E
An Urban Village in the city of Edmonton
The Village at Griesbach, as it is now called, has blossomed into a modern urban community that is leading the way in innovative design and sustainability. It’s undergone a remarkable transformation since 2003, when the property was transferred from the Department of National Defence to Canada Lands Company (CLC), a federal Crown corporation responsible for developing surplus government properties.
The Griesbach Village
Today the Village at Griesbach is home to 5,400 residents living in single-family homes, townhouses, low-rise apartment buildings and seniors residences. This urban renewal surely ranks as one of the most sensational neighborhood redevelopments in Edmonton’s history. Spanning the area from 137th Avenue to 153rd Avenue, between 97th Street and 113A Street, Griesbach will eventually be home to about 4,000 housing units and 15,000 residents.
Houses with a friendly front porch
Duplexes are mixed with single-family homes
Village at Griesbach
Built on the site of a former Canadian Forces Base, the Village at Griesbach in Edmonton, Alberta was purchased by Canada Lands Company (CLC) in 2003 from the Department of National Defence. At that time, the 620-acre (251-hectare) site housed more than 50 derelict buildings and 750 Permanent Married Quarters (PMQ) housing units.
These days eclectic housing choices add interest to the streetscape. Duplexes are mixed with single-family homes, starter homes sit next to move-ups. Inspired by turn-of-the-century architecture, many homes fall into a neo-traditional style, where front-attached garages are replaced with a friendly front porch.
CLC tackled the property’s environmental issues by spending more than $1 million removing the hazardous materials. Buildings which were not salvageable were demolished, while those that could be rehabilitated were renovated and retrofitted to provide modern amenities while retaining their unique design. Tones of asphalt, gravel and concrete were recycled and reused in the construction of roadbeds, and plans call for an extensive network of parks, trails and four storm water lakes to provide recreational opportunities for residents.
Innovative development practices and design ideas
CLC has also paid tribute to the property’s military heritage. Streets and parks have been named after famous local military heroes and battles in which local military units participated. As well, statues have been erected to commemorate the former base’s namesake, Major-General William Griesbach and his wife, Janet.
Monument of Major Billy Griesbach at the main square in the Village at Griesbach
Using innovative development practices and design ideas, Village at Griesbach was master planned to be a family-friendly self-sustaining neighborhood, while maintaining a traditional community character and a profound respect for the land’s military legacy. Sustainability reaches deep into the redevelopment. Many of the old army homes, built in the 1950s and 1960s, were recycled as part of the belief that they have a value and add texture and character. New porches, siding, windows and shingles help them blend in with bigger and more expensive houses being built nearby. Today, former military residences are refurbished duplexes that sell for around $300,000. The remaining units were sold or donated for reuse outside Griesbach.
The Village at Griesbach is a lively and vibrant place
The ambitious undertaking pushed forward with plans for a village centre with a massive supermarket and other commercial, retail and business opportunities. Streets and parks were named after famous local military heroes and battles in which local military units played a part. The Village at Griesbach was positioned as a lively and vibrant place that reminded Edmontonians of their ties to the military and the proud history of the place.
Materials from demolished buildings were salvaged for use off site, and concrete from buildings and road structures has been crushed and used to create new roads. Soil from excavating the lakes has been used to build the central hill and park, where there’s a lookout with views of downtown and the surrounding area.
Griesbach embraces its military past. Commemorative plaques and storyboards dot the neighborhood. It also leaves a legacy for future generations. A new K-9 school opened this September, and work has begun on a commercial centre. It won’t be your usual strip mall. Instead, it will feature three- and four-storey buildings with boutiques, cafes and small shops on the ground floor and office space above. More shopping is available across 97th Street at Northgate and North town Centres, and White Oaks Square along 137th Avenue is minutes by car.
An extensive network of parks – Bridge over the lake
Plenty of trails and parks – Lake Lookout
Bordered by two of the city’s busiest roadways — 97th Street and 137th Avenue — Griesbach is ideally situated. It’s 10 minutes to downtown, the Yellowhead is just blocks away, and there is access to the Henday. Some people who work in Fort McMurray or Fort Saskatchewan make Griesbach their home. There’s a transit centre at Northgate Centre, and plenty of bus stops along both 97th Street and 137th Avenue, and the LRT will eventually run down 113A Street with several stops.
This environmentally sensitive community features carefully planned and preserved natural amenities. A section of the Village at Griesbach is the recipient of a Stage 2 LEED ND (neighborhood development) Gold certification. Village at Griesbach is the first project in Edmonton to receive this prestigious international designation. To learn more about this rating system visit the Canadian Green Building Council at www.cagbc.org.
When the project is completed, as many as 13,000 people will be living and working at the Village at Griesbach – a testament to CLC’s outstanding track record in supporting sustainable development.
Griesbach Village is proof that new life can be injected into a tired place. The Village at Griesbach provides proof that you can clean up polluted land, inject new life into a tired place, and reduce urban sprawl and the need for new infrastructure around the fringes of the city. With smart design, to paraphrase W.P. Kinsella, if you build it, they will come.
Bridge over the lake
Statues have been erected to commemorate the former base’s namesake, Major-General William Griesbach and his wife, Janet.
About Major Billy Griesbach
Before the year 1914 came to an end, two more battalions were allowed to begin recruiting in Edmonton, the 49th and the 51st. One of the Dragoons officers, Major W.A. Griesbach, was brought back from England to command the 49th.
‘Billy’ Griesbach was one of the most colorful individuals in the early history of Edmonton. He had come to the area as an infant when his father took over command of the North West Mounted police at Fort Saskatchewan in the 1880s. He served with distinction in the Boer War and returned to Edmonton to practice law and politics. He was elected to city council and a term as mayor while still in his twenties. A Conservative in Liberal Edmonton, Griesbach was never successful in winning election at the provincial or federal level but his good humor and obvious devotion to the community made him a popular figure. When recruiting for the 49th started in January of 1915, he had no difficulty in filling the ranks in a matter of weeks.
Although several more battalions were raised in Edmonton, the 49th alone kept its identity and served as a front line unit in the Third Division through all the great battles on the Western Front, from the spring of 1915 until the end of the war.
Griesbach Village Website
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