Five questions with Urban Planner Chris Dulaba

Written by Breanne Fisher

Ever wonder what Edmonton will look like in the next 10 to 20 years? Talk to Chris Dulaba. As the founder of Callidus Development Management+Advisory, and Placemaker at Beljan Development Corporation, Chris is directly involved in the changing face of the City. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with him and learn more about what projects he’s working on, what changes he sees ahead, and his advice for Edmonton’s next generation.

1)   What projects do you currently have ‘in the works’?

“We have a lot of projects in process right now, including:

  • The Crawford Block: north of Whyte Ave on Gateway Boulevard. This is a development that retains the old Crawford Block as a historic resource, and includes the addition of 40 micro-suite apartments above ground-oriented commercial.
  • St. Claire: a mixed-use project in the Forest Heights neighbourhood. We are proposing the development of 27 rental apartments above main floor commercial.
  • Lynnwood Shopping Centre: renovating the existing southern portion of the building and adding a two-story office/retail building.
  • The redevelopment of the Healy Ford site.

2)   How has Edmonton changed since you first started working in urban planning?

“Over the past decades, Edmonton allowed outward growth using the ‘pay as you go’ approach. The continued outward growth happened quickly, which has led to an infrastructure deficit. Now, we’re seeing the City better align new growth with its long-term costs to service these areas—with transit, police and fire, maintenance, etc. The infill market is in its infancy, but growing. People are also starting to place a greater value on neighbourhoods that are closer to employment and transit.”

3)   What are Edmontonians looking for today?

“Today, people have a different perspective on where they want to raise their family. A growing proportion of the market wants to live in urban locations and mature neighbourhoods. The younger generation is demanding more and thinking bigger. They see Edmonton differently and for them, mediocrity is not acceptable anymore.

The Baby Boomers are also becoming more focused on walkability. They’re looking to downsize, be closer to their families, and are looking for services in locations they are already familiar with.”

4)   What do you feel differentiates Edmonton from other cities (such as Calgary) and what future opportunities do we have?

“Edmonton seems to be more ‘down to earth’ than other cities–we’re defining our own selves as a diverse city. We’ve just started to hit the ‘hockey stick’ curve in terms of development and interest in our downtown. I believe that large projects such as the arena district have the ability to transform the perception of downtown. There are huge opportunities for Edmonton–we’re just starting to come to our own.”

5)   What advice do you have for Edmonton’s next gen?

“Build your network with people that you can rely on. My network gave me the ‘push’ to go out on my own. It’s important to get your name out there; go to events or participate in activities that you have an interest in. Eventually, opportunities will come your way without even trying. Always keep your reputation in mind as well–a strong reputation is an asset to building your career and it is something that you cannot buy.

Something else I discovered in my own career path is that you may have an overall vision, but don’t be afraid to take a risk to change or alter it. I learned that you might set out a specific path, but there will always be forks in the road. Making a decision that somewhat deviates from your original path can take you to your ultimate goal.”