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The evolution of Calgary’s new urbanism movement, or good urbanism as Alaniz Uribe prefers to call it, began 30 years ago when the community of McKenzie Towne in southeast Calgary was created. Brookfield Residential, then known as Carma Developers, was looking at what to do with its land south of 130th Avenue S.E. on the east side of Deerfoot Trail. Brookfield had already built a lake community and a golf course community and needed to invent something else to
“Once upon a time you could basically build houses and people would buy them but if you had land a little bit more out of the way, the question was, how do we make people drive the extra distance,” says Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who holds a master’s degree in environmental and urban design.
“It was through the 1990s and early 2000s that places like McKenzie Towne became a laboratory for innovative design and walkable communities,” he says.
Brookfield’s McKenzie Towne is a neotraditional community built on the principles of a small town. It has a High Street with a pub and friendly shopkeepers. It has a public square, a church with a steeple, a neighbourhood firehall and simply oozes charm. It was a hit with buyers who seemed very excited that they could walk rather than drive to get whatever they needed. This community was quickly followed by other urban projects like Garrison Woods, the Bridges and East Village.
Carra says each of these communities are being built in compliance with the city’s goals for higher density and with the understanding that if people are going to live in higher density areas, you must reward them for that lifestyle choice.