As Edmonton region's population booms, developer says there's space in hamlet of Ardrossan

Strata Development Corp. is building 2,500 new homes in Ardrossan, Alta., just east of Edmonton. (Submitted by Strata Development Corp. - image credit)
Strata Development Corp. is building 2,500 new homes in Ardrossan, Alta., just east of Edmonton. (Submitted by Strata Development Corp. - image credit)

Record numbers of new residents arriving in Edmonton are prompting questions about how to ensure housing supply keeps up. But one local developer is pitching the population surge as an opportunity to bring more people to a small community just outside the city.

Roughly 20 kilometres east of downtown Edmonton, about 1,000 people live in the hamlet of Ardrossan. Its population has already doubled within the last 10 years, and new residential development in the works will be enough to increase that number again, six times over.

It's a far cry from all the space needed for tens of thousands of people making new homes in the Edmonton area. But Strata Development Corp. partner Andrew Usenik says it's time to put more population in an area that has the schools, recreation options and utility infrastructure to accommodate more growth.

"I don't think areas with existing infrastructure are enough to be able to handle the size of the population that's going to be moving here," he said.

"But I also think we're very foolish not to capitalize on those easy wins and low-hanging fruit when we have them."

Ward 5 Strathcona County Coun. Aaron Nelson represents the large rural area including Ardrossan, which has long been the service hub for people living on nearby farms and acreages.

Living just outside Ardrossan for nearly two decades, he acknowledges going from 1,000 to 6,000 people would be a big change for the hamlet, which is home to many families with generations of history there.

Over the longer term, the community could grow to as many as 10,000 people.

"Coming from the rural areas, you don't look at things of that scale of growth that quickly because it never has come in the past," Nelson said.

"And now that it is, we just have to basically be ready for it."

Edmonton area adds 63,000 new residents

The Edmonton metro area saw its biggest year-over-year population increase on record last year, bringing the new total to 1.56 million people.

Those residents are spread across more than 9,400 square kilometres. Beyond the capital city, the metro area stretches west to Evansburg, east to Sandy Beach, north to Legal and south just beyond Leduc.

The region can expect about 2.2 million people living there by 2044, according to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB), the municipal collective responsible for planning and monitoring growth.

But that projection anticipates adding 33,000 new residents each year — 2023's population increase was almost double, at more than 63,000.

Smaller communities in the Edmonton area are feeling the pressure of the population boom, from struggles to attract local family doctors to funding shortfalls for infrastructure upgrades.

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board has saved the provincial government millions of dollars, according to a recent report released in December. The report looked at the work of the board which is made up of 13 rural and urban municipalities in the region.
The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board has saved the provincial government millions of dollars, according to a recent report released in December. The report looked at the work of the board which is made up of 13 rural and urban municipalities in the region.

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board is responsible for developing and implementing a regional growth plan. (Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board )

"A lot of people have the concerns of if an area grows too fast, can the hospitals handle it? Can the roads handle it? Can the shopping centres handle it? And I believe that we're sitting pretty good compared to some of the other places, that's for sure," Nelson said.

In Ardrossan, Strathcona County has already built new sewer and wastewater infrastructure that will connect to about 2,500 new homes in the full development. That eliminates one of the big cost concerns that comes with greenfield development.

Plus, Usenik said, the new developments are built more like communities of single-family houses and townhomes that you'd see in a big city, rather than big country homes on sprawling lots that were common in the past.

"It's still not four- to six-storey towers. It's not the kind of development you would see in the core of Edmonton. But … we were able to take existing infrastructure and basically find a way to densify the plan," he said.

Coun. Nelson said he's already seeing a notable increase in the number of young families moving in.

Strathcona County is also planning for the new Bremner development — a massive expansion northeast of its most populous centre, Sherwood Park, that will eventually accommodate nearly 80,000 more people.

Nelson who is serving his first term as a county councillor, said plans and projects started years ago are helping with the latest population influx. But he still plans to keep an eye on how it impacts his residents.

"We know growth is good for the area. We have to have it," he said.

"But that's a double-sided question, because I like to see it, but I like to see controlled growth."