Note: This blog was originally published in the Calgary Herald's Neighbours, January 30, 2014.
By Richard White, January 31, 2014
While there is much talk about the importance of densifying Calgary’s older residential communities (i.e. those built from 1950 to 1990), in reality, it makes good sense to create more housing on the edges of the city given that is where most of the new jobs located. If we want to reduce the length of commutes for Calgarians and encourage them to walk or cycle to work, the best way to do that is to integrate –not segregate - residential and commercial development.
This concept harkens back to the early ‘90s, long before Imagine Calgary, when the City approved the “Go Plan” which focused on the planning and policy initiatives that would entice Calgarians to live closer to where they work as a means of enhancing the city’s mobility. The idea at that time was to create mini-downtowns in the suburbs so people could “live, work and play” in their immediate area, rather than having to commute across town or to the downtown.
Until recently, most of Calgary’s residential development was on the west side while the vast majority of the commercial development (industrial, warehouse and offices) was on the east side, meaning most Calgarians had to drive across the city to get to and from work every day. However, with the creation of new communities like Cityscape, Walden, Seton and Legacy on the east side, more and more Calgarians can “live, work and play” without having to drive across the city or downtown.
New Suburban Home Design
Early in 2013, the City approved a new master-planned community in Calgary’s far northeast called “Cityscape.” Already homes are being built and the new community is taking shape. While there was controversy over its name, given it is so far from the “city,” developer Mattamy successfully argued the community name is appropriate given the “cityscape” vista the land offered.
Cityscape unlike suburban communities of the past has narrower lots, more variety of housing types, better connectivity with pathways and parks and retail centers. Mattamy alone will be offering Village homes (small condos), Townhomes (the hottest housing type in the city these days), Laned homes (rear lane garage) and single-family homes (SFH). And even the SFH are different from traditional suburban homes with front double car garages that are less protruding, allowing for a more attractive porches and a streetscape that isn’t dominated by big double garage.
When fully built out Cityscape will consist of 4,000 homes and a population of over 12,000 (similar to East Village) all within a few blocks of the 115-acre natural preserve encircled by a 2.5-kilometer pathway, with lookouts and nature interpretive areas at key places. It will definitely enhance Calgary’s reputation as the “City of Parks and Pathways!”
An example of new community with home designed to fit on narrow lots, recessed garages and smaller front lawns and driveways.
Integration of Commercial and Residential Development
The development of StoneGate Landing, by WAM Development Group, on 1,100 acres north of 128th Ave and west of Metis Trail (next to Cityscape) is the suburban equivalent of a small downtown with its 10 million square feet of industrial space (the equivalent of 5 Bow Towers), 1.5 million square feet of retail space (the equivalent of Chinook Centre) and 2 million square feet of office and hotel space.
StoneGate Landing is just one of several mega land development projects currently under construction north the Calgary International Airport and east of Deerfoot. It is any wonder there is a strong market for housing in what could be called Calgary’s NNE neighborhood i.e. north of downtown, north of the airport and east of Deerfoot Trail.
If Calgary sticks to its current position of no more annexation, Cityscape, StoneGate Landing and other major land developments in the City’s far northeast could easily become a city within a city. Cityscape and StoneGate Landing provide Calgarians with the opportunity to “live, work and play” in the new suburbs. Imagine living in Calgary and not having to use the increasingly gridlocked Deerfoot, Crowfoot or Glenmore Trails or ride the overcrowded LRT.
Calgary is quickly being fragmented into distinct smaller cities based on different economic engines. The northwest is becoming the “Learning City” with SAIT, the University of Calgary and Foothills / Children’s Hospitals being its economic engines. The southeast is evolving into a “Distribution City” with all of its warehouses and distribution buildings. The billion-dollar expansion of Calgary’s International Airport with all of its neighbouring developments is quickly becoming our “Airport City.” The southwest is "Execuville" as it is home to most of Calgary's downtown corporate executives and exclusive communities.
It will be interesting to see how Calgary and other cities around the world evolve over the next 25 years at they adapt to the ever changing economic realities that dictate city development. Indeed, life is just a continuous series of adaptations.
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