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July 01, 2012

Hope at large – Inner-city inspiration

Albi Homes can’t resist the appeal of established communities

Marty Hope

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While suburbia remains the go-to destination for the vast majority of new home buyers in Calgary, the lure of established communities remains strong.

For some, living in the inner-city on the fringes of downtown is a matter of convenience and access, for others it’s the lovely charms of older trees lining the streets, of mature green spaces, and some even have river settings — in short, a lifestyle change.

The lure of inner-city living caught up with Albi Homes’ Allan Klassen, president and managing partner of the luxury estate home builder. “We’re loving it, it’s beautiful here.”

Klassen has joined the exodus from suburbia, having recently moved his family into their new infill home in a long-established community. “Great neighbourhood, and pretty eclectic, to say the least.”

From a corporate perspective, Albi, along with a number of other name builders, have recognized a change in consumer preference and have made a business decision to respond to the appeal of infill housing.

The corporate decision by the Albi brain trust to turn part of its focus to the inner-city areas and infill housing wasn’t something that happened overnight, says Klassen, adding that his company and other builders see the inner-city as a growth opportunity.

He says that with the shortage of inventory, challenges with city infrastructure, and strategies being mapped out to shape Calgary’s future growth, the desire and opportunity for inner-city living is increasing.

“With Albi among them, a number of builders see established communities as potentially thriving and sustainable new markets,” Klassen says.

“Albi, which has been focussed on the luxury estate market for 30 years, made the decision two years ago to venture into this very competitive and thriving market because we believed with our experience in knowing the luxury custom process, staff and design capabilities that we would be able to create what our customers want,” says Klassen.

Currently, Albi has projects in the inner-city communities of Collingwood, Mount Pleasant, Varsity Estates, Altadore, Mission, Bowness, and Canyon Meadows.

But this lifestyle doesn’t come without a cost.

“Price is based on home-only as most of our customers come to us with a lot already,” says Klassen, adding that Albi will also help clients find a lot to suit their needs.

“The average price of just the home would be in that $700,000 range, but pricing is done on an individual home basis, since no two are alike,” he adds.

Barry Laidlaw, an ownership partner and head of design for Capstone Custom Homes, says growth in demand for infill homes in established communities is being generated by a change in what people want and where they want to live.

“I would say much of the growth is being driven by people who have grown tired of areas where double front-drive garages are the dominant feature of the neighbourhood,” says Laidlaw, whose company is working on several million-dollar-plus projects in various communities.

“People are flocking back from the suburbs because they feel there is more of a sense of community here and more cool and eclectic homes,” Laidlaw says.

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