To start, the City Administration Building is one of the best adaptive reuse buildings I have ever seen. After the building started as a grocery store in the late 1980's, the city purchased the building and the strip mall next door, which houses a public library, and converted the grocery store into a city administration building. The interior entry is a very welcoming space, with easy access to permitting.
|Airdrie civic building is a cool adaptive reuse of a 1980’s grocery store. They also own the strip mall next door, which houses a public library along with commercial uses.|
The variety in home design, densities strategically laid out to build down to the edges, with wonderful park facing homes, certainly shows how Airdrie is really working to connect the new developments through an intricate network of linear green spaces.
My first impression as we drove into a recent subdivision was that the entry was marked by just the type of house I have been touting as the big market not being met in Calgary. Home sizes increased dramatically from the 1970's on, despite a big reduction in the numbers of people living in those houses. I was tracking house versus family size when I worked in the U.S. and it took the 2008 recession to finally reverse the bigger house trend. Unfortunately, it seems to be reversing again.
But have a look at these places lining the street as we turned into the development. Really terrific bungalows I wish we could see more of in YYC. Just the size and style a lot of people, empty nesters, single households or a small family would be interested in if the choice was available. And a telling point, the house does not always have to maximize the lot.
Another feature I noticed, which is often hard to find, is to provide great design on corner lots facing both streets. Many planners try to get a front door on both frontages. This is often unrealistic, as who wants two front doors? Have a look at this example in the same subdivision as the above bungalows. The garage door treatment is well designed, the front entry is close to the corner, and the front porch brings the building next to the sidewalk. The shorter setback as well, bringing the home closer to the street on both frontages, is not only more efficient on so many fronts, but it really engages the public space of the sidewalk and the road.
|Paying attention to both frontages on a corner lot is critical |
to “finishing” a street and a neighbourhood, kinda like the
coffee shop putting the twirl in the foam on a latte.
|The staging of townhouse and single family higher density is well done in this example. Driving along the street, there are townhouses close to the sidewalk. Turning into an interior street, the building form changes|
|Here we can see the interior circulation, the close together homes in the middle of the court, the lower townhouses on the edge.|
|An example of a public pathway leading through a development |
and again, front porches facing the space and really creating
the success of the design.
All communities struggle with the need to deal with storm water run-off. Taking a broad approach to the problem, Airdrie has one development where creating a redesigned wetland will not only work well for the builder, but also better manage the storm water.
It seems all communities are challenged by suburban commercial development, developers saying that tenants must have this and that, leading to challenges for what most of us know is better pedestrian design and more sustainable public spaces. And like Calgary, Airdrie is making inroads. As Tracy told me, if a new condo provides space at grade for a daycare facility, it will be occupied. With the change in building codes that we pioneered a year ago to permit six-storey wood construction, the builders in Airdrie are looking at the cost | revenue ratio the extra two floors, now permitted, would mean if there had to be more underground concrete construction for the parking.
|This new condo mixed use building lines a street entering a new development. No problem filling the commercial spaces in Airdrie and as Tracy told me, if the space is there, a daycare will follow. And in fact there is one at the far end.|
We talked about regional challenges as my tour ended, including the expansion of retail between the two cities. Complete communities are not just about a new subdivision, or providing more retail in an inner city neighbourhood, they are also about ensuring our regional growth fills in the gaps to better utilize our shared infrastructure. Given the changes in our higher levels of government, clearly this discussion is moving, as it should, to the forefront.