Calgary's Best New Neighbourhoods 2011
Calgary is a rapidly growing city — it feels like new neighbourhoods are added every day.
When we compile our annual Avenue’s Best Neighbourhoods issue, we rely not only on the results of our survey, but also on census and City of Calgary statistics.
That means a number of newer communities must be omitted because they’re simply too new; much of this information isn’t available for them yet.
But we didn’t want to leave them out entirely since many of these new neighbourhoods have plenty to offer. This year, we decided to break them out and compare them only to each other on the points that we do have information on, including crime, assessment value, assessment increase percentage, grocery stores, drug stores, parks and pathways and recreational facilities.
Even that criteria left out some of the newest communities including Castle Keep, Quarry Park, Seton and others that are so new, even with this limited criteria we still didn’t have enough information to be able to compare them fairly with the others.
The good news is this points to the fact that great new communities are coming into being all the time in Calgary.
Determining when a community started was not as easy as it sounds — is the start date when the developer first breaks ground, gets approval, when the first person moves in?
Since a neighbourhood by definition needs neighbours, we worked with the City and picked the year that 50 units were lived in as the “start” date for a new community. The top six communities that we compare in this story were all started since 2001 according to that criteria.
Ah, the whimsical names of Calgary’s new communities. With the lowest crime rate of any new community in the city, along with the second-highest median tax assessment value, Sherwood ranks first among new communities.
The names of new neighbourhoods often inform the architecture and tone of the place. In the case of Sherwood, the idea was to evoke a country lifestyle on the northwestern edge of the city, combined with a nod to the legendary Merry Men.
Sherwood is at the very end of Shaganappi Trail, north of Stoney Trail. It’s a small neighbourhood, and not one you’d pass through on the way to somewhere else, making it relatively secluded.
Development of Sherwood is just about complete; there are fewer than a dozen lots left. One of the things that proved to be a popular draw for the community is the proximity of shopping. You could actually walk to a Costco here, which is not something many neighbourhoods can claim. The Beacon Hill Centre, which also has grocery store, restaurants and various other big-box stores, sits on a hill that rises above Sherwood.
Like many other new neighbourhoods, Sherwood has a large environmental preserve, and developer Genesis Builders Group built around that.
“We wanted to blend into the environment,” says Milton Castelino, a sales and marketing manager with Genesis Builders Group. “The environmental preserve is hundreds of acres and goes all the way around [the community]. The green spaces are natural; there are ravines and a pathway system.
“We were aiming for a highland feel, with the hill above, and I think we succeeded. It’s certainly been one of our most successful neighbourhoods.”
Developer: Genesis Builders Group
Silverado is the one of the first communities you encounter as you drive into the city from the southwest. Located south of Highway 22X (Spruce Meadows Trail) and west of Macleod Trail, Silverado is tucked in next to Spruce Meadows, with wetlands on one side and stunning mountain views on the other.
Given that, it’s no surprise it was chosen as having the best access to recreation, but it also has the best access to schools for a new neighbourhood. These two factors combined are what landed Silverado in second place.
The most striking thing about Silverado is the pathway system that snakes its way through the community. There’s no sense of it being a concrete jungle, and the developers are happy to keep it that way. In the past five years, the bulk of the neighbourhood has been fully developed by United Communities, but two smaller sections are still being built by Qualico, one of which is taking an interesting approach: big lots, smaller homes.
Lori Massé, marketing manager of Qualico, says the focus is on encouraging an active lifestyle. “We see this as a return to the times when kids could run around and play hide and seek in their yards,” she says. “The lots are bigger, like an inner-city lot that you’d see in Lakeview, for example, and we’re only allowing 17 per cent lot coverage, instead of the typical 45 per cent.”
Even the area’s mid-century modern architecture plays into the concept. “We wanted to pay homage to the lifestyle of those times,” says Massé.
3) Auburn Bay
Perched on the southeast of the city, Auburn Bay provides easy access to grocery stores and other shopping in Cranston and McKenzie Towne, as well as offering good access to parks and pathways. The South Health Campus in nearby Seton is nearing completion and the development around it is about to ramp up. Auburn Bay is the closest residential community to the new hospital and will likely be home to many hospital workers.
Auburn Bay is a big neighbourhood. Development began in 2005 and is projected to continue for seven or eight more years, at which point there will be about 7,000 homes spread over 900 acres. The centrepiece of the community is a 43-acre lake, with 13 acres of beach and parkland and a clubhouse that has already held many weddings in it.
The homes themselves have a cottage feel to them, with dormers, cupolas and shutters.
In fact, Auburn Bay was conceived around the lake lifestyle. “Way back when, our vision was cottage country in Muskoka,” says Jessie Seymour, marketing manager with Auburn Bay developer Brookfield Residential. “The lake, the park and Auburn House [community centre] were the first things to go in, so all the amenities were in place. We followed through with that in every detail, architecture, fencing, landscaping. We think this is some place special.”
Developer: Brookfield Residential Properties
4) Discovery Ridge
Discovery Ridge is the granddaddy of Calgary’s newer neighbourhoods. It’s 10 years old and the construction is long over, the developer has left the premises and it’s now under the care of its own residents. And it’s doing just fine.
Among new communities, Discovery Ridge’s homes have the highest median tax assessment value, the crime rate is second-lowest and Discovery Ridge has the second-best access to recreation.
The first impression you have of the neighbourhood is that it’s very pretty. Discovery Ridge lies south of Glenmore Trail and west of 69th Street S.W.; along the south border is the Griffith Woods and the Elbow River; to the east is the Elbow Valley Wetland. About half of the neighbourhood is made up of natural areas where the developers were able to maintain the original trees. The neighbourhood is mid-sized with about 1,000 family homes, mixed with town homes and condos, commercial and retail space.
Marv Beer has lived in Discovery for nearly nine years. He’s a realtor who specializes in the neighbourhood and he volunteers for its New Discovery Homeowners Association, which took over care of the green spaces after the developer, United Communities, finished building.
“It feels as though you’ve left the city and gone to a sanctuary, but it’s still an urban setting,” says Beer. “Over the years, we’ve become a real community with features of some of the older neighbourhoods in the city. People know each other, they volunteer. It’s a master-planned community that’s become cohesive and really works.”
Developer: United Communities
5 - tie) Kincora
The first thing you notice about Kincora is the stone tower watching over the entrance to the community.
The neighbourhood was inspired by the Kincora Fort in Medieval Ireland, but the Kincora Tower is not an actual lookout — it’s just the prettiest cell tower in the whole city. The neighbourhood’s Celtic theme begins with the tower entrance feature and a stone wall and continues with such details as lanterns for streetlights. But it’s not the quirky affection for all things Irish that got Kincora on the Best New Neighbourhood list; it was its home values. First of all, they’re relatively high and, second, they’ve gone up over previous years.
Kincora is in the far northwest, north of Stoney Trail and west of Symons Valley Road. The neighbourhood has been fully developed by Apex, with the last few showhomes now for sale. Like most new communities, Kincora is responsible for managing its own storm water, which gives it landscaped water features and a 120-acre environmental reserve that runs through the neighbourhood via a system of ravines.
Neil Chapman, president of the Kincora Community Association, says the tower is a big draw. “I think first off [what appeals to people] is the entrance to Kincora itself — the tall peel tower and the landscaping at the entrance and trees lined up the boulevard,” he says. “In the winter, the trees are lit with Christmas lights. This gives Kincora a fairy tale-like quality.
“My kids always argue over which one of them owns the castle. Which is ridiculous, of course, because I own it! Just kidding.”
Chapman says the neighbourhood is tight-knit. “On the street I live on, most of the neighbours know each other; the children play together and the parents get together,” he says. “It is a very friendly atmosphere.”
5 - tie) Mahogony
Mahogany is one of the newest neighbourhoods in the city. Walk through the fledgling community and you’re met with scattered streets of brightly coloured homes, and lots and lots of construction.
Although the neighbourhood is small now, its plans are very big. When complete in 15 or 20 years, Mahogany will actually be the largest neighbourhood in the city, with around 25,000 residents. Even in its early stages, it’s proving to be popular, with good access to shopping and the highest percentage of homes that have increased in tax-assessment value.
Mahogany is in the deep southeast, south of Highway 22X (Marquis of Lorne Trail) and east of 52nd Street S.E. Like many areas in that part of town, it’s a lake community, and developer Hopewell Residential Communities is going big. When it’s finished, Mahogany Lake is going to have three parts, only one of which is built now, and it will be the largest lake in the city, spread over 63 acres and ultimately featuring two islands. Each island will have large estate lots and be accessed by a bridge from the main neighbourhood. The main part of the lake is fronted by a private beach for residents, beach volleyball courts and playgrounds.
Scott Hamilton is a senior manager with Hopewell Residential Communities. He says the idea of Mahogany is to provide a mixture of high- and low-density housing, an urban area with retail and commercial, a central park that’s accessible to everyone and the private lake.
“We call it Calgary’s most complete community,” he says. “Really, depending on what you do for a living, Mahogany will allow you to live there, work will be right there and the lake and the recreation is there.
“Also, with the hospital and the Seton area being developed as commercial and retail, we’re hoping to lessen the reliance to go downtown as your place of work.”
Developer: Hopewell Residential Communities
Help us determine next year's best neighbourhoods by completing the 2012 Best Neighbourhoods Survey