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March 01, 2019

Condoscapes - The missing middle

Mid-rise condo buildings present a terrific option for developers

Richard White

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Being a sucker for a good alliteration I love the new urban planning term the “missing middle.” What is “missing middle” you ask? It is a relatively new urban development term for the lack of multi-family residential developments between 6 storeys (low-rise) and 12+ storeys (high-rise) in inner city communities across North America.

Why is the “missing middle” important? Because these buildings provide inner city housing at more affordable prices than row housing or low-rise buildings. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out, that if you add two or three more floors to a 6-storey building to allow for say 25 more homes you can
spread the land and development cost to more buyers and thereby charge less per home.

Mid-rise buildings also don’t create the same problems high-rise buildings. For example, they don’t stick out like a sore thumb amidst a sea of single family homes. They are what urbanists like to call “human scale” buildings as they also don’t over-power the pedestrians walking by.  As well, they are
large enough to allow for retail at the street level which in turn enhance the pedestrian experience.  European City Centres are full of them. It is what makes those cities so pleasant to explore on foot.

In Calgary’s inner city, we are beginning to see more “missing middle” projects like the luxury AVLI condos in Inglewood and Pixel, LIDO and Ezra on Riley Park and in Kensington.  Perhaps one of the best and first examples of a new “missing middle” project on a high profile inner city site was St. John’s
Tenth St. completed in 2014.  The nine-storey Annex will be the next mid-rise in Kensington, with other mid-rise projects in the works for Bridgeland/Riverside, Winston Heights and West Hillhurst.

Outside the inner city, Truman’s West District is almost entirely a “missing middle” community. While there will be a few townhouses on the edge of the community, the rest will be mid-rise residential, office and institutional buildings. Truman is currently completing construction of Gateway the first two
buildings of their ambitious project in the community of Wellington, on Calgary’s west side. Their Kensington Legion site condo is good example of a “missing middle” development in the inner city.

Bottom line- the “missing middle” is all about trying to create more diverse housing options in our inner city communities that the average Calgary family can afford.

Good News / Bad News

The good news is there are currently about 25 construction cranes scattered throughout the city building new multi-family residential buildings, ranging from four to 40 storeys. This is a healthy sign.

The bad news is that BOSA Development has taken down the cranes that were supposed to build the two-tower ARRIS project above the retail podium that will include the long awaited City Market by Loblaws. The good news is the retail is still going ahead and is scheduled to open in early 2020.  The
fact Truman hasn’t moved forward with the development of the Kensington Legion site is also bad news.  Is this a sign Calgary’s City Centre condo market is saturated at the moment?

The good news is four new condo projects are being marketed south of the tracks. In the Beltline, Battistella Developments is marketing Nude and TAK Developments is selling Fifth. In Mission, Matrix is being actively marketed by Mission 19 Ltd. and a new developer Bowman Development needs to sell a
few more condos and he will be able to proceed with The Nest on the Elbow River.

University District continues to share good news as they have signed up new tenants like Analog Café, J. Webb Wine Merchants, Cineplex VIP Cinemas, OEB Breakfast, Orangetheory and YYC Cycle for their main street.

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