There is a half block close to where I live that has half dozen small houses that probably date back to the mid-20th century that are slated for demolition soon (see pics below). The trees and shrubs have all been cut down and the houses boarded up, so you can really appreciate just how small these houses are. They look more like cabins than houses, hardly room for more than a small living room, tiny kitchen and one bedroom, maybe two if they have attic. Hard to believe families use to live in these tiny houses. Especially when you consider families then were much larger than today. Yet it was only 60 years ago that most of the houses on the prairies were small 700sf bungalows, both in the city and in rural communities. I wonder what it would be like to live in 700sf!
Just around the corner from these cabins are the new mansions i.e. infills that are 2,500 sf plus a full basement with media rooms, saunas and all the other modern conveniences. They are an instant reminder of just how much the prairies have changed in the past 60 years.
While taking these pictures, I was asked by two young females passing by when something would be done with this eyesore. Both were, keen to see something anything happen. When I told them a new condo complex was planned they were both pleased. Indeed they do look awful even before they were very unkept, but I still had to wonder, is it really better? Better for whom?
The removal of these cabin homes will probably mean more gentrification of my community. Over the past 20 years I have watched as the original tiny homes have been torn down and new ones created. First it was two skinnies i.e. 50 ft lots were divided into to 25 ft lots for two detached homes. Then to get more room, duplexes were created on the lots - who needed the 8 feet between the two houses anyway. Then it was tear down the old and just build one mansion-like home. For the past 20 years there have been new house being built on almost every block. My wife and I area always amazed at how long it takes for an established community to be transformed. There has been constant infilling in our community since we moved in and yet there are still several little cottages on our block and most other blocks.
On one hand it is great to see the urban renewal happening and the young families returning to the community. Recently, while doing some demographics research on City Centre neighbourhoods If discovered that my community now has more young children under the age of 5 than the city average. I expect this is a first for a inner city community in Calgary. Perhaps it is because we have elementary, junior high and high school in our community and easy access to three post-secondary schools. We also have arena, recreational centre, playing field and lots of children's playgrounds. It is a very family friendly community.
That's the good news! But I also wondered what happens to the people who were living there. If we keep tearing down the small (think cheap) rental stock where will the young artists live? Students? Young working moms? Part of having a great community is having mixed-income families living together. Given we have several post-secondary school close by we should be a very attractive community for students. Increasing urban density often means increasing the cost of the housing as new housing is always more expensive than old. The net result is creating a more homogeneous community which is the opposite of what we want i.e. the vitality that results from diversity. What is ironic is that many of the new condos will probably be not much bigger than the homes that they replaced i.e. 700 to 800sf. However, they will cost significantly more to buy or rent.
Just up the street from these houses is a two block retail strip with cafe, diner, two restaurant, floral shop, barber, paint store, dry cleaner and yoga studio (see pics below). I am sure they are looking forward to the increased customer base that the new development will bring. I expect it won't be long until the Central Blends cafe with its local art shows and "to die for" muffins will be replaced by a chain coffee shop. The Morocan Castle will become an upscale restaurant - some are hoping for a pub.
Like any organism a community has to keep changing, adapting to the new economic realities, the new demands of modern lifestyles. If you don't adapt you die! Nobody wants that!