What makes a neighbourhood ideal for families looks an awful lot like what makes a neighbourhood great for seniors, singles, indeed, for everyone. At least that’s what the results of the last few years of Avenue‘s Best Neighbourhoods survey seem to indicate. For the past several years, the neighbourhoods ranked as best overall have been strikingly similar to those ranked as best for families.
This year, the Beltline was the number-one ranked neighbourhood across all demographic groups that completed our survey. While there are some characteristics that are much more important for people with kids at home – such as schools and playgrounds – even for families those are not as important as characteristics that are important to everybody – such as access to parks and pathways and low crime. Families want what everyone else wants and on the other side of that equation, everyone wants what families want – including walkability and access to amenities like recreational facilities, restaurants and grocery stores.
According to Beverly A. Sandalack, associate dean of the faculty of environmental design at the University of Calgary, this trend may indicate that parents want neighbourhoods they can age in. “In the past, there might have been the tendency for families to locate in the outer suburbs because it was more affordable and there was this perception that it was a family-friendly place,” she says. “But over time, there’s been a shift in thinking. People want to move into a neighbourhood where it’s good for kids – they’ve got parks and schools and it’s affordable – but there is more of a tendency, perhaps, where they want to stay in a neighbourhood over time so as the family ages and their interests change, they’ve [still] got all their needs met.”
These needs are being met not only by a shift of more families living in the inner-city, but also to suburban developments providing more amenities and being built as complete communities for every demographic.
It’s more than just a matter of convenience. Sandalack says walkability, for example, has become an important health issue. “The last few decades in research have shown us that if kids start walking when they’re young and develop that lifestyle, it’s going to serve them well for the rest of their lives,” she says.
As Calgarians start expecting different amenities in their neighbourhoods, many developers are creating communities with a “Main Street” philosophy, which means designing shops and services around a walkable high street such as in Garrison Woods, McKenzie Towne, or the new developments of Harmony and Livingston.
“Neighbourhoods are starting to include more of a mix of uses so it’s not just schools and parks, but you’ve got a lot of different amenities,” Sandalack says. “You can walk to the grocery store or walk to the gym or to all the other things people need in their lives.”
Where the families are (and aren’t)
According to the 2016 city census.
Panorama Hills has the highest number of kids 19 and under, with 7,934.
Taradale has the highest number of kids per household, with 1.39, and per square km with 2,257.
Eagle Ridge has the lowest number of children 19 and under, with just 55 in the 2016 city census.
Eau Claire has the lowest number of kids per household, with 0.02.
Greenwood/Greenbriar has the least number of children per square km, with 117.50.