Downtown grows up
Downtown is not just hip and happening for the younger, bachelor-suite crowd, it’s also becoming a place for more established couples to settle into, even those with thoughts of expanding their family circle.
“It’s certainly something we see in other cities, like Vancouver, where it’s not just the young professionals coming into the downtown core, but it’s the second phase of their life — it’s the couples and the mid-30s crowd and older who are staying,” says Michael Ward, senior vicepresident of development for Grosvenor Americas, which has partnered with Cressey Development Group on the dual-tower Avenue West End condominium development at the corner of 5th Avenue and 10th Street S.W.
“The key to it is providing homes to them that meet their growing needs,” he says. “Whereas a lot of the condos I’m finding in Calgary are smaller, studio, one-bedroom type units, Avenue is a good example of a product type that has a good percentage mix of two-bedroom units so that there’s room for the first child or home office or out-of town guests that might come.”
Avenue West End, with 319 units, has homes that are a bit roomier than many twobedroom units available in the Beltline, he says, “so the living experience is comfortable and you’re not having that firsttime homebuyer experience of squeezing yourself into 450 square feet of a studio.”
At Avenue West End, twobedroom units range in size from just under 1,000 square feet to 1,200 to 1,300 square feet, while penthouses are larger.
“Clearly that makes the unit more expensive as an end price, but if this is a couple in their mid-30s, they’re not as price sensitive (as a first-time homebuyer) and are willing to pay more for more space,” Ward says. “They’re probably willing to pay for better finishes, which is also part of the package — better appliances, more use of stone in the bathroom. It’s probably not as large of a buyer group as the first-time home buyers in the downtown market, but it’s certainly something we’ve been seeing at our Avenue West End project.”
The attraction for these buyers is lifestyle: They want to be able to walk to work and be close to places where they socialize and other amenities. And once the singles become couples and settle into the downtown lifestyle, many want to stay there to raise families in urban areas, including downtown, Beltline, Mission and the West End.
“What has to happen there — and it’s the chicken-andthe-egg argument — some of those people will come into those areas, but the city has to react to that by starting to think about where are young people going to go to school. There are some options, but obviously, as a trend like this gets stronger, the city services need to be developed further to accommodate that,” Ward says.
Grosvenor and Cressey have included aspects in the design of Avenue West End that have those couples in mind.
The building, for instance, has a bike repair room in the basement.
“Whether it’s you or your children, you’ve got a dedicated space in the building with a couple of racks to put your bike up and work on it. There’s also a dedicated dogwash area in the garage. Anyone who’s washed their dog in the bathtub and then they’ve jumped out and shaken water all over the house knows that’s best done in a garage-type space,” Ward says.
The development has a fitness room in the first tower, and a party room and lounge planned for the second tower.
“If you can’t fit all 10 of your dinner guests into your condo, there is a fully functioning kitchen that can host a group that may be a little bit bigger than what your condo can accommodate,” Ward says. “As opposed to the first-time homebuyer who might be go- ing out more as a single person, we tend to see that older age group may have more of the home dinner parties and social events around their home.”
Ward has witnessed this trend of more established couples settling into urban, condo life in Vancouver, with the driving factors motivating the moves being long commute times to work and high real estate prices, he says.
“In the long term in Calgary, we see this trend of people wanting to live close to work, close to services, in amenityrich areas with lots of parks and the river walk and all of that,” he says.
Avenue West End has begun construction and possessions are expected to begin in late 2016.
Grosvenor Americas senior vice-president Michael Ward, left, and Cressey Development Group executive vice-president Hani Lammam are on the site of condo highrise project Avenue West End, a joint effort by their companies.
An artist’s rendering shows a bright kitchen in Avenue West End, by Grosvenor Americas and Cressey Development Group.
The development’s great room features large windows that offer sweeping views.