By: Richard White / November 2, 2013
Calgary is blessed with a wonderful array of communities from estate enclaves to urban villages. City building is not just about attracting the “young and restless” i.e. “creative class” to your city, it is also about attracting and retaining executives and their families who might want a big house and yes a three-car garage. Estate living is every bit a part of city building as is urban villages in the city centre or at transit stations.
Calgary communities built from the ’60 to the ‘90s (established communities) with their big homes, large lots and front car garages are currently not in favour with City Council and planners, yet they are very popular with citizens of Calgary.
Did you know Calgary boasts 14 million dollar communities i.e. communities with an average selling price of over one million dollars and five are over two million. Almost all of the million dollar communities were built in the ‘60s to the ‘80s. What does that tell us?
While current urban gurus are touting the importance of walkable communities using community “walkscores” (a rating system that determines how close you are to things like grocery stores, cafes and shopping, transit service, schools, recreation centers and professional services) as a means of measuring a communities desirability. What they are missing is that these amenities are not as important to everyone.
For many, the access to a dog park is the most important amenity; especially given people are now walking their dog two and three times a day. For others, a quiet place to walk in nature several times a week is just as important as a grocery store. Did you know that bird watching is one of the fastest growing recreational activities? Where better to bird watch than near a major park or natural reserve?
Who needs a café when you can create a crema at home better than most baristas in the city? Who needs a street patio with noisy traffic, smelly fumes and hard chairs when you have a quiet deck with sweeping views and soft seating?
One hidden gem for estate living in Calgary is the southwest community of Woodbine. While Woodbine is not anywhere near the being a million-dollar community, there are numerous homes along the northern bluff of Fish Creek Park that definitely qualify as a “millionaires row” with spectacular backyard views of the park and mountains.
In particular, Woodpath Estates in the extreme southwest corner of Woodbine is a county oasis in the city. I am told rarely do these large three-car garage homes each with million dollar backyard views of Fish Creek Park come up for sale. Why? Because they are very desirable to Calgarians who want a country-like home in the city.
While urban gurus would look at Woobine’s walkscore of 27 (best score is 100) and rank its desirability very low. Woodpath Estates with no sidewalks and further from Woodbine’s great amenities -schools, parks, playing fields, a local shopping centre with a Safeway and a pub – would rank even lower. However, for some it is the ideal place to live.
City building is about building a diversity of homes and communities that reflects the different values and desires of its citizens. We need to embrace the development of “estate living” like Woodpath Village, as much as we do East Village.