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Walkability at University District: A Calgary Community That Scores

May 4, 2017

Walkability is a word growing in popularity for new communities and their prospective homeowners.

Beyond a buzzword in real estate circles, what does walkability mean?

We asked Don Campbell, senior analyst with the Real Estate Investment Network, a leading Canadian real estate investment education, analysis, and research resource.

“Walkability is best described as convenience.  A highly-walkable region has convenient access to basic needs like groceries as well as leisure needs like restaurants and pubs, and walking access to frequent transit – especially light rail which provides walkable access to other regions and services.”

By this definition, University District is a community developed around being walkable from multiple perspectives. From closeness to work, play and school and ease of commuting by our network of pathways for pedestrians and cyclists, University District is centered on the concept of accessibility, with all things within reaching—or rather walking—distance. Beyond the benefits of accesibility, a walkable community also makes wellness more easily attained, providing an opportunity for us to stretch our legs and move a little more in situations where we might just head for the car.

Is this a new concept? Haven’t people always enjoyed being close to amenities?

You might wonder why is this only a recent trend considering how much sense it makes for most of us who enjoy cutting down on commuting.

Campbell shares his reasoning behind this.

“With approximately 27 per cent of the Canadian population being in the Millennial age group, demographics are shifting the demand for walkability. Boomers were okay with the suburbs, driving longer trips to services and jobs. Millennials are redefining this demand pattern towards convenient access – walkability – with much less reliance on vehicle travel being preferred.

Even though Millennials might be the most vocal about expressing this as a must-have in their new homes, the growing trend of walkability is something we can all get behind, regardless of age. Whether you’re a new homeowner or an empty nester, the trend is inclusive: people want a community that offers more than a home, they want living room, and walkability is the perfect way of addressing that. Increasingly, many home-hunters are looking to indicators that an area makes for an accessible environment, actively seeking out measures like Walk Score as a way to determine best living locations.

The University District in many ways is a homerun project when it comes to walkability. The vast amount of amenities within walking distance from the development can’t be beat and its location along busy travel routes like Shaganappi Trail and 32nd Avenue N.W. make for easy access to the city’s efficient transportation and transit system.

In leading lives that seem anything but simple, it could be that many of us are trying our best to minimize—whether that’s clutter, or simply things many of us would prefer to do without. Long commutes and gas costs included. Whether it’s from a perspective of wellness, proximity to social outlets or centred on cutting down on gas use, walkability helps us achieve a better standard of living.

“We have hit a reset. We’re going back to how things used to be in the past. Our love affair with the car is far from over but we also realize we have to simplify our lives a bit. People are gaining a new appreciation for being able to live in a neighbourhood where you can walk to everything you need,” says Jyoti Gondek, Director of the Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary.

James Robertson, President and CEO of West Campus Development Trust notes the considerable range of different demographics finding their way to University District in search of an accesible environment.

“The most interesting thing is the diversity of people that are coming in—from empty nesters and downsizers to young couples, to a variety of people from the children hospital and foothills hospital, all looking to live and work close together in an amenity rich environment.”

“This trend (walkability) has really only just begun. It is a long-term, structural shift in demand driven by the coming generation combined with aging populations who will also discover that walkable, accessible and convenient neighbourhoods hold more appeal than the suburbs,” says Campbell.

 

How does University District score as a walkable community?

University District has always been about walkability, even when been described through other descriptors, like accessible and convenient. In addition to accessibility to amenities offered by U/D as an urban village, it offers a sense of adventure and a proximity to nature. U/D will be connected to the thousands of kilometers of city pathways, with Edworthy Park and the Bow River a short hike away. Walkability extends to access of all aspects of desired living, and U/D is excited to be able to offer this in all of its forms to future residents.

University District neighbour, The University of Calgary, has been selected to host the XVIII Walk21 International Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities, in September 2017.

The gathering will welcome some of the top minds in public health, to architecture, to urban planners will come together with citizens, politicians and policy-makers to debate and discuss how best to nurture a culture of walking in Calgary. The City of Calgary, a partner in Walk21, has developed a pedestrian strategy to promote walking as a means of transportation, recreation and as a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle. We can’t wait to find out more!

Have any questions about how else U/D is growing into a walkable community? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook!


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