As Calgary dynamically grows north, south, east, west and beyond, communities like Alpine Park, Wolf Willow, Belvedere Rise and others are booming as Calgary’s new ‘burbs. It’s complicated, strategic and it doesn’t just happen.
“The City looks at many factors when planning for growth and change,” says Matthew Sheldrake, Calgary’s manager of Growth and Strategic Services, “working together with developers to ensure that Calgary’s new communities are more vibrant, diverse and sustainable than ever before.
“Once every two years, as part of the Citywide Growth Strategy for making growth budget decisions, the City receives business cases from developers interested in initiating new community developments. The submissions address key city-building, servicing, market and financial criteria. Council’s decisions then drive new community investments and planning approvals, which set the stage for infrastructure installation, home construction and first occupancies.”
Despite the time-sensitivity of developer business plans and schedules, the planning and engineering work, prior to business case approval, takes about three to five years. Once a business case is approved, it’s another two to four years until the first residents move in.
Alpine Park, Calgary’s new west-end expansion is quickly becoming one of the City’s popular new ‘burbs and also creating an innovative, new planning and development trend. New Urbanism – a contemporary development phenomenon and an alternative to traditional single-use, low-density development. The core principles of New Urbanism are the neighbourhood and the pedestrian. People first versus vehicle-first.
Dream Homes has chosen Alpine Park as the only next-generation new urbanist development of its kind in Calgary. “It is fundamentally different from anything else available in Calgary’s new home market today,” explains Michael Tandara, Dream’s director of marketing for Western Canada Development. “Calgary is a young city, even in North American terms, but a lot of its development occurred during ‘car-focused’ eras where the automobile was king and the most important decisions made by planners was keeping cars flowing, not creating the best possible spaces for residents.
“Feeling more connected to neighbours and the community, where every streetscape is beautiful, full of life and more than just slab after slab of concrete driveway, is New Urbanism. Nearly all Dream homes in Alpine Park focus cars at the back, meaning streetscapes are a compelling mix of a higher calibre of front porch homes of every size, with architectural styles that celebrate the prairie, mountain and urban history of Calgary itself.”
HDR/Calthorpe, the globally respected urban planners specializing in engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services, has managed projects in countries worldwide and is part of the Alpine Park Dream team. “It’s the biggest piece of new urbanism that we’ve attempted and built in Canada,” explains renowned urban planner Joey Scanga, HDR/Calthorpe vice president.
“Usually it’s the smaller scale things, like implementing sidewalks on both sides, tree wells, open space, investing in the landscape. Coming out of this COVID slumber, community is more important than ever. The world is getting flipped on its head a little bit about how people are going to commute and move around. We’re very proud. Places like Alpine Park are going to be important to growth and to strategy of growth.”
According to Sheldrake, “Making decisions for new community approvals is about strategically enabling growth in ways that maintains a healthy, competitive housing market, while maximizing infrastructure and operating cost efficiency. Different parts of the city have different amenities and service needs, which can affect the cost of growth. Different parts of the city also offer different markets and product offerings, which is also a factor.”
Cameron Tainsh, development manager at Westcreek Developments, developers of Calgary’s Wolf Willow, says “There’s a lot of process and detail that goes into moving a piece of land and making it into a community. Sustainability and preservation of the natural environment are important considerations every time we build a new community. And it all starts with the land.”
Planning and strategizing for tomorrow are also vital. “Key factors like density, pedestrian connectivity and housing form diversity,” notes the personable Mike Selinger, regional president of Cardel Homes, also a key Alpine Park builder. “Location has always been, and will likely always be at or near the top of the list. Customers are looking for good quality park space, walkability, local service amenities, access to schools and good transportation routes, and of course, affordability.”
Consumer priorities and trends are also key factors in Westcreek’s new Wolf Willow community. “We do constant market research to determine the demand in the current market and we build the community to meet that demand,” Tainsh adds. “Approximately 2,900 homes will be built in Wolf Willow, and include nine parks, a dog park and a school playfield. Our planning integrates all aspects of life, not just the houses themselves. By focusing on how we bring people and communities together – with businesses, infrastructure, natural landscapes and green spaces – residents have boundless opportunities to enrich their daily lives.”
Calgary’s new ‘burbs also meet the City’s planning and development priorities. “Alpine Park features a grid-based street network centred around a higher density mixed-use village centre that has a pedestrian-oriented high street where people will be able to work, shop, relax and gather together,” Sheldrake points out. “Wolf Willow is designed around a network of paths, parks and safe, walkable streets that allow residents access to amenities and services, as well as multiple connections to Fish Creek Provincial Park.”