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August 01, 2014

Condoscapes – Holy condo!

Streetside’s condo ushered a new age of Kensington developments

Richard White

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Out of the ashes of the 2002 fire that destroyed the St. John’s Catholic Church (built in 1931) on 10th Street in Kensington has risen the St. John’s on 10th condo. Well, first Streetside Developments, the developer had to negotiate a deal to buy the land from the church, then as they were about to apply for a change in land-use in November 2006, the City decided they needed to amend the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Area Redevelopment Plan to include “Transit-Oriented Development” principles. Finally, with an approved development permit in December 2010, Streetside was able to begin building.

The St. John’s on 10th condo is really two condos attached in the middle. One is an eight storey concrete, warehouse-looking red brick structure facing 10th Street N.W. with its retail spaces at street level and condos above, while the other is a four-storey, wood-framed building facing west onto 10A Street N.W.

Importance of Linkages

Calgary’s S2 Architecture, paid homage to the old St. John’s Church by using red brick as the main façade material. Red brick pilasters (an architectural term that refers to a rectangular column that gives the appearance of support but is only decorative) wrap around the base of both buildings, connecting them visually. The pilasters also link the ground floor commercial to the residential above. The use of red brick also makes links to the many other early 20th century red brick buildings that make Kensington Village one of Canada’s most charming urban playgrounds.

The architects and developer also successfully linked the new building to the existing land uses. For example, on 10th Street N.W., the retail spaces at grade enhance the goal of creating a contiguous pedestrian experience from the river to 5th Avenue.

And, on the 10A Street N.W. side, the building slopes down to integrate with the single-family homes and small apartment across the street.

Rise of the Mid-Rise

St. John’s on 10th is classified as a mid-rise building, defined as being between four and 12 floors. Calgarians can expect to see more and more of this type of building as part of the urban densification of our established communities. Especially those along key transportation corridors where the combination of transit, ground floor retail and upper floor residential are considered to be the best use of the land. St. John’s on 10th and other Kensington mid-rise condos like PIXEL and LIDO foreshadow what’s to come to other established communities as the City implements its Corridor initiative.

Mid-rise buildings are preferred for sites adjacent to single-family homes as they are less foreboding and don’t cast long shadows. Visually, they seem more human scale and with shops at ground level, they are more pedestrian-friendly. Back story: Paris’ city centre is almost entirely populated by buildings that are six to 10 floors, since without elevators (the elevator didn’t come into common use until the late 19th century), that was as high as most people would climb.

Last Word

One of the biggest challenges with the St. John’s on 10th project was the patience and persistence it took for Streetside to work with the City and the community to ensure the project met everyone’s immediate and long-term needs. The end result is a handsome, timeless building that everyone will be proud of for years to come.

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