Little ‘love nest’
It’s the love nest. It wasn’t exactly planned that way, but Lyne Mercier and Michel Arseneau have dubbed it that — and they are living it.
“I never thought I would live in a small place like this, but we’re here and we love it” says Mercier, who came to Calgary six months ago from Montreal to take up a position on the National Energy Board. “It’s our little love nest.”
The size still amazes her, although she now wouldn’t trade it for anything bigger.
“I started shopping in February – and we were looking for a condo,” she says.
“We lived in one in Quebec, but it was much larger. This condo was the first one I saw and it was so small — only 967 square feet.
“I then started to refuse to view anything less than 1,000 square feet.” Then, her husband arrived at the end of May.
“He walked into this first condo I had seen and the mountain view got him. I was doomed.”
The couple bought a onebedroom apartment with a tiny den – and wall-to-wall, floor-toceiling windows – in the Union Square highrise
They have never regretted it.
The unit is located on one of the top floors of a highrise that’s in the midst of the redevelopment of the upand-coming First Street S.W., a trendy area in the Beltline.
The condo has views from almost every angle, providing mountain vistas as well as downtown skyline panoramas.
“We’ve had 20 sales in the past 30 days, so interest continues to be high,” says Alex Ferguson, development manager of Apex Cityhomes.
“Our sales centre traffic is the strongest on record.”
Just 25 of the 163 condos in the tower are left for sale. He credits the surge in interest to several factors, not the least of which is the improved economy.
“There is more confidence in the market and in almost every business sector,” says Ferguson. “All real estate has stabilized and there are more typical terms out there today.”
While there are still 5,823 units under construction in the multi-family sector — with the majority of those in the inner city highrises — “it has been declining since the summer of 2008,” says Richard Cho, senior market analyst at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. in Calgary. “That number is down 45 per cent from the 10,643 under construction in July of 2008.”
A number of inner-city projects have either been put on hold or cancelled altogether, which will further help to balance the market — although inventory levels are still climbing, says Cho.
A big factor that has helped Union Square is that the project is nearing completion and people have already moved in, says Ferguson. People want to see the condo and know it will be built according to the developer’s plans.
Location continues to be the key. Union Square is in the heart of the rejuvenation of First Street S.W. — an upand-coming area that has become “a High-Street connector between two of Calgary’s most important streets: 17th Avenue and Stephen Avenue,” says Ferguson. “It’s perfect for people with an active lifestyle, with the river systems and pathways and Talisman Centre at your doorstep.”
The eclectic 4th Street S.W. is a short walk away.
The street, itself, has been in a decade-long makeover, says David Low, executive director of the Victoria Park BRZ (Business Revitalization Zone).
“We’ve worked hard for the last 10 years to try to turn the street around and there is now a neat convergence of residences and uses that help to support an urban lifestyle,” he says.
“There are small cafes, delis and funky, attractive things that you’d typically see in Vancouver and Toronto. It’s a neat place to be.”
The location was certainly a draw for Mercier. “It’s close to everything,” she says.
“I swim five times a week, so that was important to me, and this is five minutes from the Beltline pool and 10 minutes from Talisman Centre.
“There was no way I was going to pay $400 a month for parking for work, so this is close to downtown so I can walk, and we have access to everything the downtown has to offer, such as Prince’s Island and theatre.”
The condo, itself, worked out perfectly despite its size, says Mercier.
“It forces you to streamline and be restrictive about what is coming in,” she says.
“You can’t clutter and our little den — just 10 feet by 10 feet — is big enough for guests. Our loveseat is a hide-a-bed and there’s even room for a TV and printer.”
The den is separated from the great room by a large, barn-style frosted glass door that slides across, opening up the space even more.
The popularity of condo living, especially downtown highrises, will continue, says Ferguson.
“I predict Calgary will experience significant growth in city centre condominiums because the employment core is concentrated in Calgary’s downtown — and with the growth of condominiums, shopping and services will follow. For example, Costco has now opened in downtown Vancouver.”
In turn, that will lead to the “gentrification of our city centre that will increase the desirability,” says Ferguson.
“The improvement of Haultain Park and First Street Village provides examples of that. They create a dynamic place.”
Haultain Park is directly behind Union Square and Apex Cityhomes has partnered with the Parks Foundation Calgary to renovate the area.
A grand opening celebration is slated for Sept. 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also scheduled to open in the near area is Sunterra Market and Giuseppe’s Italian Deli and Market.
Other new shops and services include fashion boutiques in Hotel Arts, as well as art shops, coffee bars, including Deville and Starbucks, and entertainment venues such as St. James Corner and Atomic.
Lyne Mercier and husband Michel Arseneau admire the view from their unit in Union Square in Calgary’s Beltline.