One of the key issues facing Calgary politicians and planners, as well as established communities, is how best to foster the integration of new infill condos on single-family housing streets without the “constipation of consultation.” Brookfield Residential, with its Altadore 36 project (located at the corner of 36th Avenue and 16th Street SW) could well become the model for future condos in established communities.
Brookfield Residential, headquartered in Calgary, is one of North America’s largest homebuilders and perhaps best known for its suburban, master-planned communities like McKenzie Towne and SETON. What is amazing about Altadore 36 is that it got City and community approval in just 11 months, despite increasing the density ten-fold, i.e. six dilapidated, single-family homes are being replaced by 62 condo homes. In many cases, a project like this would take years to get community and City approval for a building permit.
Architect Jesse Hindle (he lives in Altadore and his office is in nearby Currie Barracks) created two interlocking ‘L shaped’ buildings oriented east/west along 35/36th Avenues SW. By aligning the development lengthwise along 35/36 Avenues, he maximized the street frontage for each unit and minimized the depth of each of the two buildings across the site. The result: two, long narrow buildings that wrap around a 30’ x 160’ central landscaped courtyard. Each unit located on the courtyard or 35/36th Avenue has 30’ of street frontage, allowing for large windows that provide residents with views, natural light and fresh air. The two-storey, two-bedroom suites along 35/36th Avenues and the courtyard have a total of 60’ of street frontage. All this and the building isn’t any higher than the fourplex next door.
Bigger isn't always better?
Though the zoning would have allowed a fourth floor, the architect and developer thought this scale was more synergistic with the existing buildings. Good infill development isn’t always built to maximum density.
The design of Altadore 36 is also very compatible with some of the new, flat-roofed, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired homes in the community. Hindle chose a sandstone-coloured brick, for a warm and timeless look. The refined rectangular-shaped buildings with clean edges have a traditional, yet contemporary presence – nothing wild or wacky about this condo! Good urban design is about quality materials, as well as respecting the scale and architecture of the past and the present.
From the street, each townhouse unit has a small front lawn and patio that function much like the front porch of early 20th century homes. Above the street are the penthouse flats which have glass, half-walled which foster interaction between the street and the building. Good urban development is about cultivating exchanges between neighbours, not complete privacy.
All interior homes face onto a courtyard with sidewalk, trees and plantings providing an attractive view from their patio or balcony. Altadore 36 is designed as an impressive hybrid of urban and suburban design.
While some might lament the loss of the six older homes which were providing affordable rental housing for some Altadore residents, the new homes starting in the mid $300s will provide affordable housing for first home buyers, seniors or single parents of moderate income. In fact, with a monthly mortgage cost in the $1,300 range, the cost of these homes won’t be any higher than renting a two-bedroom Altadore apartment.
As well, in addition to diversifying the housing stock in Altadore, Brookfield’s Altadore 36 project will create a much more attractive pedestrian experience both along the street and the back alley for a win-win proposition.
This Hindle-designed, Brookfield Residential condo could well become the “model” for successfully diversifying the housing in Calgary’s established communities. It is projects like Altadore 36 that will evolve our predominantly single-family, mid 20th century communities into attractive, animated 21st century ones designed be appealing for generations to come.
NB. An edited version of this blog was commissioned for Condoscapes column in Condo Living Magazine.