Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Brentwood's Transit Oriented Development

For a long time, the area around Brentwood Station has been dominated by strip malls and fast food outlets.  There has been some gradual evolution away from that with the University City development starting to take shape.   Two of its towers are completed and the buildings are taking residential and commercial tenants.

The location is of course transit oriented and it would be quite easy for people to take advantage of the nearby LRT station, which not only features the C-Train but also buses serving Foothills Hospital, the Alberta Children's Hospital, and University of Calgary, just to name the biggest employers in the area. The nearby strip malls, though altered slightly to make space for the development, still have two supermarkets, and other retail and restaurants within walking distance of the towers as well.

While the amenities and location will entice some people to move to the development, there still may not be the infrastructure to make a community out of what has been built there.  The abundant parking the serves the strip malls in the area will keep walking a bit more challenging than it ought to be and there will not be much through those parking lots to entice walkers to meander any.  Apart from the parking lots, the traffic on Crowchild and on the parallel roads that serve the Brentwood LRT station on either side would not entice a lot of pedestrian traffic either.

The development is still a work in progress and there is plenty of opportunity yet for the people living there to have their impact on the neighbourhood, but the longer standing businesses still make their presence known.  The ground level units in the development provide people with views of the parking lot at the Wendy's and the service area for the Jameson's pub.  The smell, sight and clatter of dumpster pick up and restaurant staff stealing out back for a smoke may not give people the sense that they are at home as much as they happen to be living in a neighbouring business's recently compromised parking.

There is further development to unfold in the area but despite the fixtures, benches and other touches to enhance the walkability and the curb appeal of the University City development there is still a chance that things do not live up to their promise.  If, as is a common problem with many condominiums, the development finds itself home to more renters than owners the area may not achieve the critical mass to help spark the momentum toward a sense of community there.  If it is left to happenstance and it becomes a matter of residents knitting together a neighbourhood out of chance encounters in elevators and hallways in the building and then in the nearby grocery aisles, cafes and pubs the development will have a chance at fostering a community.  As it stands though, it looks like it will take some effort and commitment among the people who move there to achieve this.

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