Many times I have said “don’t judge a community until the trees are taller than the houses.” I was reminded of this over the summer as I picked up a golf buddy once a week at his townhome in Point McKay before heading out to Redwood Meadows. As the summer unfolded, so did the amazing trees and flowers that make the northwest community of Point McKay a garden paradise.
It is bounded at the north by Bowness Road, at the east by 37 Street NW, at he south by the Bow River and at the west by the Edworthy Park parking lot. For many, Point McKay is the two brown brick highrise condo towers (Riverside I and II) along Parkdale Boulevard next to the Edworthy Park parking lot, or the townhome backyards you can see when you walk or cycle along the north shore of the Bow River. In reality, it is a hidden gem.
Point McKay was one of Calgary’s first attempts at creating an urban village. The 21- storey Riverside I and II towers (completed in 1979 and 1981 respectfully) create the high density (295 units) with retail and a fitness centre at street level they are similar in many ways to the new towers in the Beltline.
It isn’t until you drive into the townhome area to the east of the towers that you begin to appreciate how this urban village is a garden oasis.
The curved, tree-lined streets are divided into six clusters (built from 1977 to 1980) totalling 505 town homes and 30 duplexes. What makes them really special is the lovely side and backyards that open up to common areas lush with flowers, trees and expanses of green grass.
There are no detached single-family homes in Point McKay, the same as University District one of Calgary’s new 21st century urban villages, currently being built just a few kilometers away.
City Beautiful Movement
One Sunday afternoon, I cycled over to explore the community on foot. I was gobsmacked by how beautiful the side yards and interior common areas were. I was immediately reminded of the “City Beautiful” movement popular in Canada in the early 20th century, with its principles of creating urban communities that were less grid-like and more park-like. This meant curved streets, irregular lot shapes, boulevards, an abundance of parks and architectural controls; not dissimilar to what we saw in Calgary’s late 20th century communities.
Point McKay has easy access to the Bow River pathway - for cycling downtown to work and/or play, or perhaps a recreational walk in the evenings or on weekends. You could walk to work if you worked at the Foothills Medical Centre.
It is also close to both Edworthy (pebble beach) and Shouldice (sports fields) Parks. It is also only a short walk to Angel’s Cappuccino & Ice Cream café in Edworthy Park or the Lazy Loaf Café, Extreme Bean or Lic’s Ice Cream in Parkdale.
In 1977, Cinema Park Drive-In, with its parking lot that accommodated 1036 cars, was demolished to make way for the Point McKay upscale high-rise/townhouse development. The development is named after Alfred Sidney McKay (1860–1940), a Calgary who homesteaded the land that is now Point McKay and Parkdale. He built a sandstone home near the Bow River at 1st Ave and 37th St NW that is still there today albeit hidden in the middle of Point McKay and rented to an architectural firm. Yes you can still walk in and see it.
FYI: There are also four 100 year old brick homes along 37th Street that were built as a parade of show homes when the new community of Parkdale was McKay built as show homes when he was first being developed.
Today, Point McKay is home to some lucky 1,348 people who live in a garden paradise that is unique to Calgary.
Note: This blog was originally published in the November 2017 Issue of Condo Living Magazine.