Lit­tle ‘love nest’

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Front Page - KATHY MCCORMICK

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.

Christina Ryan, Cal­gary Her­ald

Lyne Mercier and hus­band Michel Arse­neau ad­mire the view from their unit in Union Square in Cal­gary’s Belt­line.

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