Inner-City Innovation

How does an established area become a Complete Community?

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The plans call for a public courtyard within a private development. That space will be connected to the street by a 12-metre-wide staircase and will never be locked. It’s an interesting concept, but it has faced some barriers.

Courtyard 33 is a 6-storey development on 33rd Avenue S.W. that is being developed by RNDSQR. Alkarim Devani, one of the firm’s founders, recently told The Globe and Mail that the courtyard is a living room for the Marda Loop neighbourhood. Like all great living rooms, it will need a little colour. In this case, that means two large murals to be selected from a short list of 10 through public voting and expert advice. 

The space will also be home to shops and restaurants, putting it in step with The City’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP). In established communities like Marda Loop, the goal is to create Complete Communities with vibrant street life and “high-quality business locations.” The MDP also seeks to create a more compact city. Courtyard 33 will be 6 storeys tall and contain 63 units on land that was formerly the site of 3 single-family homes.

The goal is to revitalize older neighbourhoods, but it’s not an easy process. The Courtyard 33 development process reveals that some regulations are working against The City’s vision. Setback requirements reduce land yield and work against creating lively main streets. There are also parking requirements that require large, expensive parkades.

Building in established areas also involves amending zoning regulations. These sorts of mid-rise developments are often called gentle density. They are a key way in which older neighbourhoods deal with demographic change while maintaining their essential character. 

But change can be hard. For developers, that means engaging with the community. RNDSQR began that process in July 2017. The company mailed out information and scheduled meetings. It also manned a booth at the local summer street festival and hosted a community barbecue. 

These sorts of events are proof that innovation doesn’t stop with the building’s design. Developers have to be creative in how they bring residents along with their plans. And they have to be patient; Courtyard 33 was approved by city council in October 2018.

Timelines like these can be costly for developers and, ultimately, for homebuyers. But if the end result is a new community hub that brings the street to life these frustrations will fade. Besides being a great place to live, Courtyard 33 will be proof that building Complete Communities is an exciting process. Even if it does need to be taken one step — or public staircase — at a time.

May 1st, 2019

Mid-rise developments create street life and housing options.