Being a sucker for a good alliteration I love the new urban planning term the “missing middle.” What is “missing middle” you ask?
The term coined by Dan Parolek (President, Opticos Design, in San Francisco) includes duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, backyard suites, courtyard apartments, town/row houses, small multiplexes with five to ten homes and work live spaces. In Calgary’s established communities duplexes, triplexes etc have been common place for years. Backyard suites and small town/row and multiplexes are beginning to be seen more and more often these days.
What is missing in Calgary are mid-rise residential buildings, those between 6 storeys (low-rise) and 12+ storeys. There are lots of wood-frame four storey condos (mostly in the suburbs) and lots of concrete high-rises in the City Centre, but not a lot of mid-rises which offer benefits both aesthetically and financially. One of the reasons they don’t get built is that those living in the single family houses nearby don’t want the extra height and traffic.
Let’s have a look at some the benefits….
Why is the “missing middle” important? Because these buildings provide inner city housing at a more affordable prices than row housing or low-rise buildings. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out, that if you add two or three more floors to a 4-storey building to allow for say 25 more homes you can spread the land and development cost to more buyers and thereby charge less per home.
Mid-rise buildings also don’t create the same problems high-rise buildings. For example, they don’t stick out like a sore thumb in a sea of single family homes. They are what urbanists like to call “human scale” buildings as they also don’t over-power the pedestrians walking by.
As well, they are large enough to allow for retail at the street level which in turn enhances the pedestrian experience.
European City Centers are full of them. It is what makes those cities so pleasant to explore on foot.
In Calgary, we are beginning to see more “missing middle” projects like the AVLI condos in Inglewood and Pixel, LIDO and Ezra on Riley Park in Kensington.
Perhaps one of the best and first examples of a new “missing middle” project on a high profile inner city site was St. John’s Tenth St. completed in 2014. The 9-story Annex will be the next mid-rise in Kensington, with other mid-rise projects in the works for Bridgeland/Riverside, Winston Heights and West Hillhurst.
Outside the inner city, Truman’s West District is almost entirely a “missing middle” community. While there will be a few townhouses on the edge of the community, the rest will be mid-rise residential, office and institutional buildings. Truman is currently completing construction of Gateway the first two buildings of their ambitious project in the community of Wellington, on Calgary’s west side. Their Kensington Legion site condo is good example of a “missing middle” development in the inner city.
Bottom line - the “missing middle” is all about trying to create more diverse housing options in our inner city communities, at a lower price point.
Good News / Bad News
The good news is there are currently about 25 construction cranes scattered throughout the city building new multi-family residential buildings, ranging from 4 to 40 storeys. This is a healthy sign.
The bad news is that BOSA Development has taken down the cranes that were supposed to build the two-tower ARRIS project above the retail podium that will include the long awaited City Market by Loblaws.
The good news is the retail is still going ahead and is scheduled to open in early 2020. The fact Truman hasn’t moved forward with the development of the Kensington Legion site is also bad news. Is this a sign Calgary’s City Centre condo market is saturated at the moment?
The good news is four new condo projects are being marketed south of the tracks. In the Beltline, Battistella Developments is marketing Nude and TAK Developments is selling Fifth. In Mission, Matrix is being actively marketed by Mission 19 Ltd. and a new developer Bowman Development needs to sell a few more condos and he will be able to proceed with The Nest on the Elbow River.
University District continues to share good news as they have signed up new tenants like Analog Café, J. Webb Market Wines, Cineplex VIP Cinemas, OEB Breakfast, Orangetheory and YYC Cycle for their main street.
Editor’s Note: An edited version of this blog was published in the March 2019 issue of Condo Living Magazine.