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March 01, 2010

A woodsy wonderland!

First time homebuyer finds calm in condo surrounded by abundant nature and easy suburban lifestyle

Cathy Arola

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Have you ever had the feeling you don’t know what you want until you see it? For first time homebuyer Jill Knapp, this was exactly how she felt when she was looking for a place of her own.

But when a friend of her parents suggested she look into a new condo in Calgary’s southwest outskirts, Jill went with an open mind, and left with her mind made up.

The Wedgewoods — a three-building, apartment-style condo complex nestled beside a 93-hectare natural woodland in Discovery Ridge — really captured her heart and became the high water mark by which she judged any other suite she looked into during her quest.

“This place was my measuring stick, I just had to move here,” the 30-year-old says of this unique development by Statesman. Prior to viewing the show suite she never considered the prospect of having a fireplace, stainless steel appliances or miles of nearby walking trails, thinking it would be beyond her budget.

But getting her one-bedroom and a den suite for $246,000 in 2006 was a terrific deal no matter how you look at it.

“You’re in the city, but you’re not,” she explains, “You don’t feel like you’re in a concrete village, you actually feel like you’re here in this beautiful forested area.”  The sprawling 100-foot-tall birch trees that envelop the buildings are a testament to the developer’s vision to embrace Mother Nature.

The buildings are arranged in a horseshoe configuration with a rock garden, trees and a visitors’ parking lot in the centre. The first building — known as Chateau I — was built in 2005 and two more followed until the project’s completion in 2007.

There are a total of 568 units with several floor plans ranging from 798 square-feet to 1,466 square-feet. Jill’s suite is the smallest floor plan. The largest has two bedrooms and a den. All buildings have underground, heated parking with storage space within the confines of the parking spot. The owners also have access to an on-site gym and multi-purpose room.

Standard features in all suites are nine-foot ceilings, carpet and ceramic tile, maple cabinetry, laminate counters, stainless steel fridge, stove and dishwasher. The units also have an upright washer and dryer, soaker tub, separate shower, walk-in closet, balcony and stone-faced gas fireplace.

The 17 months Jill waited since she signed her contract and moved into her suite seemed drawn out because of her excitement, and she recalls several drives from her parent’s acreage in Bearspaw to check on her building’s progress. She remembers how excited she was when she saw her bathtub being installed.

She used that waiting time constructively, however, consulting with various designers and drawing ideas from home decorating shows. With their input, Jill chose a contemporary motif with earthy, bold accents of colour. Most striking is how the espresso-stained cabinets complement the unique charcoal-stained maple hardwood.

To keep things simple and neutral, Jill selected a palette of soft taupes offset by white baseboards and mouldings. All the colours work together to add warmth and dimension to her cozy suite.

After accepting the position of Technology Learning Specialist with a downtown law firm, Jill saved her money and focused on customizing her space to suit her needs. The avid cook wanted her kitchen to be functional and inviting. The open concept of her suite works well because she can linger in the kitchen preparing dinner for guests while still carrying on a conversation. To optimize counter space and storage Jill upgraded to a built-in microwave and added an extra two feet to her cabinet height.

Her spa-like bathroom is a pure dream to any condo dweller accustomed to tight quarters. The spacious room includes a glassed-in shower and soaker tub. There is no need to clutter the counter around the sink because storage space is optimized with several drawers within the vanity. Even the door to the built-in medicine cabinet matches the dark stained cabinetry in the vanity and kitchen.

If she isn’t curled on her bed reading a suspense-filled Mary Higgins Clark book, or practicing her Spanish by listening to Latin music, you’ll find Jill sitting in front of her fireplace on her over-stuffed sectional couch watching TV.

The Wedgewoods boast Statesman’s Mega Building System — a light steel framing panel system that perfectly fit the needs of the five-storey buildings in the complex. This new system also allows designers to create open spaces with longer spans for custom suite layouts and also facilitates changes and interior renovations. It also reduces vibrations, sound transmissions and provides fire separation between units.

From her balcony a handful of spruce trees are a few feet away and tower up to the fifth floor. On most evenings in warmer seasons, Jill’s mother will meet her and together they will walk a length of trail in Griffith Woods Environmental Park. Established in 2000, the park features paved pathways, gravel and dirt trails, benches, forests, native grassland and wildlife.

Getting away from it all is the only downside to living in Discovery Ridge. The community — which reported 4,286 residents in Calgary’s 2009 civic census — relies on transit that doesn’t operate on weekends.

“Anyone who lives down here with no car has a lot of challenges that if they lived downtown they wouldn’t have,” Jill admits. She stays punctual to her job by maintaining a 30 minute “buffer” to get to her office.

Other than the commute, she stays close to home and takes advantage of nearby amenities including Westside Recreation Centre, a neighbourhood shopping plaza and major shopping centres in Signal Hill and Westhills Town Centre.

With all the conveniences of suburbia and tranquil elements of the great outdoors — why go far from home? 

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