Nov 14, 2012

Study Area

We live in close proximity to a C-train station (light rail train) in the inner city in C-town.   When we were looking to buy prior to moving out here, I was keen to find something close to transit - for two main reasons:

1. I'm generally lazy and don't like driving
2. Potential increase in resale value due to proximity (which we were planning to do after 2 years)

What I didn't factor into my best laid, 2-year plan was that I would fall madly in love with my house.  Drafty windows*, ugly pink bathroom and creepy wood stairs and all.  Crap. So we've decided to stay longer than originally anticipated.

Now we have been swacked in the back of the head with a new layer of complication.  The TOD (Transit Oriented Development). Dunh Dunh Dunh... 

The City of Calgary is all over the TOD, which boils down to increased, mixed density around transit stops.  I think densification is a critical step for building sustainable cities - I really do.  (Lordy knows I love Portland). Particularly if the development interfaces well with the neighbourhood, respects its original character and is designed to engage in the same way that a neighbourhood unit typically functions (see below - gooorrrrgggeeeouuusss).  Unfortunately, TOD's also affect historic neighbourhoods (with smaller houses) and many are under threat in the city from complete annihilation and replacement with soaring multi unit buildings. 


ooh_food on Flickr
When it boils down to it, it's not the planning initiative that I fear but how the policies translate in the real world. Inevitably, when a developer gets involved (who is ultimately bottom line driven), the neighbourhood is under risk of getting stuck with an ugly stucco clad monstrosity with bad vinyl windows and Lee-Press-On faux river rock. The only solace is that the building will likely be built with such cheap material that it won't even last 30 years.

ok ok - I'm over-reacting.  But it's warranted. Last week we received a letter from the city requesting our participation in an upcoming stakeholder consultation. Our property and several other neighbours were demarked within a red lined boundary known as 'The Study Area'.  Then a couple days later when I'm out, a friendly realtor knocks on our door, wondering if we would have any interest in selling - her client, (a developer) has been amassing properties near ours for the last few years. The developer picked up a number of smaller bungalows on the cheap which they are either renting or just generally neglecting in hopes of lowering their neighbourhood value. We're one of the last few he needs.  H. (hubby) takes the realtor on a tour of the house, shows her everything we've updated, peeled back, buffed, painted.  She smiles politely, looks disinterested and tells him to give her a call to discuss things after he talks to me. H. googles the developer. They reno and flip cheap apartment units. This is not good news.

So now what?  We own a ubiquitous mid century house.  What are our options?  Do we historically designate (so it cannot be torn down)?  Can we even historically designate as ours is a fairly modest mid century house? What if we need to sell and designation scares off potential buyers?  What if we don't designate and our perfect little prairie house is torn down?

I am constantly telling clients in my heritage business that a heritage house is one of the most powerful bargaining tools you can have.  And now that I'm in that very same situation, I certainly don't feel very powerful...

LP


*the ones we haven't restored

2 comments:

Heather said...

What do your neighbors (those who haven't sold) think? I hate hearing about things like this--everyone loses except the developer who cares about nothing more than making money.

Laura said...

All the neighbours are concerned. We're all being upzoned. I agree with you that it's the developer who wins in these situations. I'm hoping to work with the city to develop some guidelines for development that reflects the orignal character of our mid century neighbourhood. The city is pretty open to this kind of thing.

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