Wave Of The Future

A proposed multi-million-dollar redevelopment of part of a northwest Calgary shopping mall has been called a “proving ground” for future mixed-use projects that will hug LRT lines.

Ald. Druh Farrell says the vision being proposed for the Brentwood community will be carried on to other transit-oriented developments (TODs) being considered by city officials.

“This area will be a proving ground for future, similar developments,” says Farrell. “The city is looking at it as a model for others to come.”

Meetings have already been held with residents in Hillhurst/Sunnyside regarding an area redevelopment plan, she says, adding talks are scheduled for this spring to discuss a TOD planning strategy for the Banff Trail/Motel Village area.

“We will be closely scrutinized as Brentwood will be the first TOD and we look forward to the opportunities this will allow,” says Joe Starkman, an ownership partner in Knightsbridge Homes, who has partnered with Toronto-based developer Metropia to undertake the development.

The joint-venture partnership putting together the Brentwood Village plan has received land-use approval from the city on the first phase of a much larger TOD that could see as many as 8,500 more people living and working in the area on the east side of Crowchild Trail across from the University of Calgary Research Park.

First-phase work, which could last as long as seven years, isn’t likely to start on the Brentwood retail/residential complex until either 2010 or 2011. Total build-out is estimated to be 25 years. Despite controversy swirling around the planned reconstruction at Brentwood Village shopping centre, the joint-venture partners undertaking the project are confident they can win over their future neighbours.

Meetings with the city and community will continue, including their involvement in a design charrette–a brainstorming session–for Blakiston Park scheduled this spring.

“I can understand the fear of the unknown, but once they see what we have planned and we get more involved with them, they will better understand the vision and how it will all work. Then, I think, most opposition will subside,” says Metropia president Howard Sokolowski, who is also president of the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts and Toronto-based house builder Tribute Communities.

Starkman says the proposal for the 568,000-square-foot first phase calls for the construction of five residential buildings with between 500 and 600 units and with underground parking. Four of the buildings will have street-level retail components. Renderings provided by the development partners show two high-rises close to Crowchild that could be between 20 and 24 storeys high. Behind them, and across an internal street that will be built, is a pair pair of shorter towers planned to be 12 to 16 floors high. The building closest to the existing community and Blakiston Park would only be three to four storeys high.

Starkman, whose company is well known in Calgary for its innovative approach to designing and building high-end homes, says the vision for Brentwood is in keeping with the city’s plan –the creation of an urban village. “This would solidify Brentwood as a key employment hub in the northwest as well as giving multiple housing choices in the area for existing and new residents,” he says, adding that the employment aspect has been created over the years by the university, its research park, Foothills Medical Centre, the new Alberta Children’s Hospital and the existing Brentwood Village Mall.

While land use approval has been received, Sokolowski says he doesn’t expect to get a development permit for a year.

Farrell says, though, that with the number of permit applications declining, the Brentwood approval could come in six months. But, she says, because the proposed development is in a community that hasn’t seen much in the way of new development in several years there are obstacles and challenges that have to be dealt with. “For Calgary and for the Brentwood area, this is a major shift in planning,” she says.”It’s a way of creating density, employment and walkable communities around public transit while respecting the character of the surrounding communities.”

Sokolowski says that while this is an innovative development for everyone involved, care will be taken to ensure it is done properly. “Because it is in an established community that hasn’t seen much in the way of new development for quite a while, we are aware and sensitive to the issues being raised by our surrounding neighbours,” he says. “After all those years, they are now facing some intense high-rise redevelopment.” What makes Brentwood so appealing for this type of development is the nearby rapid transit, existing retail amenities, and access to hospitals, the university and the research park, adds Starkman. It also provides the developers with an opportunity to blend various housing styles.

“We anticipate a mix of housing to include apartment condominiums, townhomes, live/ work residences, seniors’ housing, and perhaps some affordable housing opportunities,” says the Knightsbridge partner. “The mix will not be unlike what is currently found in Bridgeland and The Bridges–a project that has been redeveloped by the city in partnership with local builders and architects. There is also the opportunity for a 100 or so room suites-type hotel.”

As for the buyer pool, Starkman sees existing community residents as possible purchasers, along with newcomers to the area working at the hospitals or at the research centre, and some investors.

“Perhaps there will be some looking at the small group of townhomes fronting on Blakiston Park that will have retail on main level with living quarters above,” says Starkman. “In our opinion, this live/work aspect assists safety at Blakiston Park with, essentially, eyes on the park on a 24-hour basis, and will further enhance the urban village concept.”

——— In Short PROJECT: Brentwood Village Transit-oriented Development (TOD). This is the first TOD to be done by the city as it attempts to increase density and provide employment centres along LRT lines. The first phase of the Brentwood project will consist of five residential buildings, four with street-level retail. They will range from as high as 24 storeys down to three or four storeys.

DEVELOPERS: Knightsbridge Homes of Calgary and Metropia of Toronto.

AREA: Brentwood, in northwest Calgary.

TIMELINES: The first phase is expected to get under way in 2010 or 2011 and take five to seven years to complete. The total project has an estimated build-out time of 25 years.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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