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April 01, 2010

Marked for success

Victoria Crossing provides the perfect backdrop for our condo buyer’s edgy lifestyle

Pepper Rodriguez

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Jason McNichol always marched to the beat of a different drum, finding success in the most unusual places — including buying a condo in what was then a part of town that no one in their right mind would have touched more than a decade ago.

But in his case, crazy might as well be foresight, as he rightly predicted that his unique two-bedroom-plus-loft condo in the Polo Terraces condominium in Victoria Crossing would be like striking real estate gold when the time came — and that time is now.

“When I first moved into the Polo Terraces in 1999, this was pretty much a seedy part of town inhabited by not the most savoury of crowds,” Jason says. “But I could see its potential. Even back then it had some of the best restaurants and pubs in town, and now it’s the centre of a cultural evolution with new art galleries and coffee houses not to mention the remaking of the Stampede Park. And I get to live right in the middle of all that action.”

All of the building’s 119-units have two-bedrooms and two baths, and all units on the top floor feature a loft. Jason is the condo board president, too, and he says the decade-old building — and the association itself ­— is in tip-top shape. “Luckily, we’re very well off and the building itself is problem-free.”

As condo president, you might think Jason is some stuffed shirt, but nothing is further from the truth. He has an outgoing, easy-to-talk-to personality whose passion for the artistic runs wide, and tattoos are just the beginning.

Jason’s taste for the esoteric is apparent as soon as you step into his 1,100-square-foot unit on the top floor of the five-storey building — Mayan stone masks, hand-woven Persian silk rugs, Asian sculptures and abstract paintings combine for a distinctive blend of Western and Oriental design influences. Tasteful blues waft from the ceiling speakers and custom track lighting provides classy urban flair.

He says he was able to buy the place for about $200,000 plus the upgrades he’d put in, which is an unbelievably terrific value especially now, considering it has 22-foot vaulted ceilings, huge southwest facing windows, a second-level loft, and a private balcony with natural gas hook up for the barbecue. It is the perfect setting for the kind of urbane lifestyle he has become fond of.

“Because of its central location, my place is where our friends meet up whenever we go out on the town, they can park here or call a cab from here and on odd occasions even crash here for the night — though I’ve discouraged that kind of behaviour now,” he says.

The condo is just a reflection of the man himself. Born in Toronto but grew up in Calgary (“My family moved here when I was three”), Jason has a passion for tattoos — you can see the intricately inked whorls and swirls peeking out from under his long sleeved shirt — and says he got his first one when he was 17.

“When I got my first one, tattoos were like a form of rebellion more than anything else, it still has this anti-establishment caché that has made it so popular, only now it is more accepted in society and considered as another form of art.”

Now at 39, he’s thinking about opening his own tattoo parlour right in Victoria Crossing. “What I have in mind is a high-end tattoo studio for business executives and professionals with a big bay window where passers-by can watch tattoo artists at work. Because I do believe it is art and would complement well the growing artistic scene in Victoria Crossing.”

The Polo Terrace’s location really works out well for Jason, who is an avid outdoorsman — rock climbing and canoeing are some of this favourite pastimes. “It’s right by the river and Talisman Centre is a short walk away. It’s also just 45 minutes away to Kananaskis Country, and I still get to enjoy downtown.”

He says he has friends living in the outer suburbs who find it really difficult to let their hair down in downtown. “If you have to drive you have to restrain yourself at parties, my girlfriend (Paisley Angus) used to live out in Bridlewood and it’s a $65 cab ride out there. Living here, I have no such worries.”

Jason says he realizes there may come a time when he has to give up this lifestyle. But for now he is still enjoying the vibrant scene of Victoria Crossing, and soon maybe even make his mark as a part of this as well.

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