Come and walk through our door… because these smiling faces (happy beneath the mask) are ready to welcome you, your family, and your pets to University District! We are grateful to have safely re-opened to the public in May, and since then, we’ve continued to see the community grow and flourish, particularly with our latest stores and services opening on our Retail Main Street!
What makes the Discovery Centre so important to our community? Beyond our four walls and builder show suites, our residents and visitors say it’s the sense of belonging and familiar faces that make all the difference. Serving as a central community hub, visiting the Discovery Centre is a way for people to explore what U/D has to offer and residents to feel connected. This is where the heart of U/D fuels the relationships built among neighbours and community members.
At U/D, we feel like everyone is family. And our team rolls out the welcome mat every time, for everyone exploring a place to call home, beautiful park spaces, and now, our recently opened shops and services!
A smile between people goes a long way; and the smile of a passionate advocate goes even further. That’s why you’ll find Rhonda Zander and Milton Castelino, our Customer Experience Ambassadors, buzzing about and interacting with everyone who comes through the door. Often they are the first point of contact for many guests and their love for the community is palpable!
Do you recognize Rhonda from University District virtual tours, or your in-person visits over the past few years? She’s been a part of University District from its earliest years, when construction had just started and the public was first learning about the community.
“What a difference from when I first started to now! In a few short years,” says Rhonda. “I feel like U/D has become a staple in the NW, something fresh and new with the urban city vibe that isn’t seen on this side of the Calgary past Kensington.”
Rhonda has lived in Montgomery — a hop, skip, or bike ride away — for more than 20 years and has seen the NW develop and grow. She says U/D feels like the missing piece of the urban puzzle the NW didn’t quite have before.
“Beyond some of the suburban communities in the NW, there are only a few places where you’re able to enjoy the inner city benefits of shopping locally, strolling down a street lined with boutiques, and having a coffee date at the park.”
Now that the U/D retailers are opening, Rhonda is seeing more of her neighbours from Montgomery, whether at Save-On-Foods or just taking an afternoon walk from the Discovery Centre.
“I’m setting aside a little bit of extra time for every outing now because I know I’ll stop to chat. U/D has the small-town vibe where everyone knows each other, or sees each other in passing and just stops to introduce themselves.”
University District is bringing people together, and it’s great to see so many residents and visitors enjoying this space I’ve seen built from the ground up.”
A ball of energy and incredibly personable, Milton is one of those people who you can’t help but chat with for hours and not realize how much time has passed. Within two years, his presence at the Discovery Centre has been a fantastic addition.
So what makes Milton a go-to to learn more about the community? His excitement when talking about University District is as if you were discussing a vacation at a celebrated, beautiful destination.
“The only way I can describe U/D is comparing it to resort living. It feels calm and easy to enjoy the day – without the busyness of the rest of the city. There’s not a lot of traffic, everything is in walking distance and the main street is always in sight.”
And I find that people stop to chat, whether they’re familiar with each other or not. It’s a great feeling — that’s not something that I’ve always experienced living in the suburbs, primarily because of being in the car and driving in and out of the garage without that opportunity for interaction.”
Is Milton a converted urbanite? “Absolutely. When my family was growing it seemed to make sense, but now chatting with residents at U/D who have families, it’s a different lifestyle to consider. The walkability to grocery shopping, not being in a car for three hours for errands; life seems much simpler.”
Beyond the accessibility for University District, the grandfather of two has loved to see the diversity of people who are living, working and playing in and around the neighbourhood. All types of Calgarians (and some new residents from across Canada) from young professionals and students to seniors, retirees, and families are coming together to enjoy every aspect of the neighbourhood. This is especially noticeable at the Northwest Commons Park and North Pond and Urban Dog Park.
“I love spending time here. It doesn’t feel like I’m going to work at all. Every day presents an opportunity to meet new people and connect with community members…many who are now friends.”
The people-first philosophy has been a cornerstone for the development of U/D since the beginning and has guided the community’s growth.
As residents move in and more neighbours discover U/D, the sense of community has grown as people with a true sense of belonging among one other. For residents, a shop owner, or a frontline worker at one of the nearby hospitals, deeper connections are sparked by familiarity and easy conversation.
“Alberta Children’s Hospital employees come by regularly, just to stop in — a hello, a catch up, even to find out what’s happening in the community.” shares Milton. “Those who are doing residency or are visiting from other hospitals come by too. It’s a great feeling to be able to develop those relationships.”
Even more, the neighbours from Varsity, University Heights, Parkdale, Montgomery and Bowness are supporting the community, not only using the public spaces but visiting retailers. Debbie Bauman, owner of our newest retailer, Pet Planet Health, has had many neighbouring pups looking for treats since opening. And Stephen and Marissa Rizzuto at Curious Salon and Denim & Smith Barbershops have welcomed guests from Tuscany and further NW to enjoy their luxurious personal grooming services!
“I think a lot of people in the NW either stay within their communities or head straight to the core of downtown, and are surprised to see that they have another option.” Rhonda says.
“And it still feels like home because it’s close by. Particularly with some of our older neighbours and residents, University District feels familiar because it’s not too far off from their own communities and they can comfortably explore the neighbourhood without feeling like they’re going out of their way.”
Visiting the Discovery Centre also means visits with the sales teams at Homes by Avi, Brookfield Residential and Truman which offer townhomes, condos and 55+ living , and the chance to visit Gracorp Properties to learn more about upscale rentals. The sales team members are a part of the U/D family, and the hospitality they show to visitors, neighbours and residents always leaves a positive impression.
We chatted with a few of the members to find out what they love the most about University District, from hidden gems to day-to-day experiences, beyond the brochures. The general consensus: it is difficult to pinpoint only one or two things that they wanted to share!
“I’ve seen the community grow and I love that time doesn’t feel like a factor here. It’s super simple living, almost a small-town feel, where everyone knows each other by name and it’s easy to spend time with one another. I feel like I’m on holiday each day because there doesn’t seem to be the every-day pressures here. It’s more of a feeling.” Stacy Reive – Community Manager for Brookfield Manager at the IVY
“Being a mother, I love that this area caters to kids. It has an inner city feeling but is right next to the Alberta Children’s Hospital and is accessible. The community is calm and quiet, and still has the playfulness and activity that my family really loves and appreciates.” Becky Popowich – Sales Representative for Homes by Avi.
“The community just feels fresh, bright and airy, even while the community is under construction. And since we have brand new infrastructure, it doesn’t feel like any other inner city neighbourhood. The biggest bonus is that we don’t have a lot of congestion – traffic flows in and out but we don’t have any traffic backed up.” Shefali Meyers – Sales Representative for Homes by Avi.
“Not many people seem to know this, but there’s a beautiful wetlands area near the Alberta Children’s Hospital side. It’s a great walk over, fantastic vantage points, but also incredibly quiet. You kind of forget that you’re in inner-city.” Grant Mcarthur – Client Services Specialist for Truman.
As you can see, U/D is a remarkable urban community for all — professional couples, medical professionals, young families and mature community members — who are drawn to the brand-new condos, townhomes and rental properties offered by our builder partners.
Tip: And beyond University District, what are the best NW hidden gems that not everyone may know about? Rhonda highlights her top recommendations when chatting with visitors at the Discovery Centre:
As the community continues to develop, Rhonda and Milton are both excited for the next steps of growth which includes the opening of Central Park in 2022 and the future development of the south.
As a former interior designer, with more than 30 years of experience, Rhonda is excited to be on the other end of the development where she sees places start from scratch and sees how visions come to life on a larger scale.
Rhonda mentions, “Things will feel more settled. From new residential options and retail, to the professional business buildings, the south will enhance the feel of the community and make it feel even more connected.”
From the park spaces to the landscaping, Milton hopes that visitors and residents will appreciate the greenery and design that is showcased throughout the community. “In a few years, these trees will almost be maturing, and it adds a new element to how people can enjoy the park spaces. The trees are integrated into the scenery and for those who have lived in legacy communities, it’s an important addition.”
With a true appreciation for the sustainability of University District, Milton feels that it’s the little thoughtful additions to make the community so aesthetically pleasing.
“Attention to detail in the design of the buildings and homes, and the people and spaces that make the neighbourhood — where we have the feeling of being welcomed home that has created our sense of community.”
So, welcome to University District, and please come by anytime. We would love to chat!
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The University District blog is a resource for Calgarians who want to live, work, play, visit or buy in the northwest. We will provide you with information, stories, news and a closer look at the things that matter so you can live a more inspired, active and connected life in NW Calgary at University District… Life works here.