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January 01, 2016

Hope At Large – No parkade, no problem

N3’s spectacular sales success explained

Marty Hope

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Noontime and Joe Starkman leaves the sales centre headed for lunch — and 10 seconds later he’s ordering.

Today, it’s a hot dog, bag of chips, and a soft drink bought at the curbside stand just outside the patio doors of the sales centre for evolutionary N3 condominium development by Knightsbridge Homes of Calgary and Toronto-based partner Metropia in the rapidly redeveloping East Village.

In November, heavy equipment started gouging dirt for the 167-unit, 15-floor project that has garnered much publicity — and a bit of controversy — from the fact it received unanimous approval by Calgary city council for construction — without a parkade.

Not only a shrewd environmental idea, but also one that responds to the demand for increased affordable housing and for the city’s stand in support of transit-oriented developments (TODs) — projects close to LRT lines.

Looking for affordability. How about this: Units run from $199,900 and with an average price of $270,000 that includes a Biria bicycle and a place to store it.

No parking structure. Starkman says the cost of just one level of parking would add as much as $70,000 to the per unit cost.

“The young people who have bought here want housing but don’t want to spend all their money to get it,” he adds.

And no cars. People who have bought in N3 don’t want to drive. Oh, they have licenses, but prefer to walk, thank you. And Knightsbridge president Starkman has survey results to prove it.

He also has deals with Car 2 Go to give N3 buyers a lifetime membership and $500 worth of mileage credits, and a $500 gift card from the car rental firm Enterprise.

He’s not done yet. IKEA got into the affordability act and has package for furnishing the one- and two-bedroom units starting at $1,800.

“We’re not trying to change the world, we are just responding to a world that is changing,” Starkman says, with an engraved shovel in his hands to commemorate the dirt-turning occasion.

With a buyer demographic that runs from 20-somethings to the mid-30s, N3 — which stands for new lifestyle/new vision/new attitude — is about three quarters sold. Starkman expects possessions to begin in the spring of 2017.

Actually, N3 is just part of a bookend set of towers that will eventually flank the historic St. Louis Hotel that is being preserved and reused.

“One year or less from now we hope to release the second tower that we have called Velo — Italian and French for bicycle,” says Starkman, adding that it will have 14 storeys.

Can something like N3 and Velo be done again?

That question brought with it a strong “maybe” from Starkman who is the face of a successful partnership. “Everything came together all at once to make this project work. But will it ever happen again, who knows,” he says.

“You just have to look for gaps in the market and take advantage of them.”

That’s pretty much what the Knightsbridge-Metropia team has done.

Together they also have changed the skyline of northwest Calgary with University City, a four-tower high-rise/townhouse complex that is nearing completion.

Possessions are already taking place in the third and fourth towers where there are only a handful of apartments still available. As well, less than a dozen of the townhomes have not been spoken for.

“All in all, I think things have gone very well,” says Starkman.

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