While money might not buy one love, enough of it can provide a spacious mansion and any number of SUVs in one of Edmonton’s mushrooming suburbs. These communities, so popular with young families looking to put down roots, offer homeowners a shot at a custom-built home for a tenable price, amenities like wrought-iron gates and man-made lakes, and the chance to fraternize with people in one’s own income bracket.
Yet that’s not enough to draw universal adulation from Avenue readers. Our neighbourhood survey revealed that, when considering where to live, most of you value personality, probity and resale price over initial property value and square footage. A look at some of your favourite spots in the city reveals why.
Take Westmount. The district boasts scenic shrubbery on its streets and historic houses, some of the best dining in the city on 124th street, a plethora of playgrounds for the young and young at heart and one of the most educated populations in Edmonton.
Eight years ago, Carla Stolte moved to the city from Vancouver with her husband, who came to further his career as a psychologist. She found her favourite things about her native city – density, environmental values, independent stores – largely missing in Edmonton. Except for in Westmount, with its tree-lined and tidy streets.
“Most people in this neighbourhood, they talk about owning bikes versus cars,” she says. “A lot of people try to shop local.”
Stotle, who edits the Westmount Community League‘s newspaper when not teaching music or raising three kids, feels the social fabric of her neighbourhood is woven tighter than most of the rest of Edmonton.
“There’s a real shared-value system,” she says, pointing to the activity of the community league, which held sessions about home renovations where individuals swapped tips on finding a reliable contractor.
Another favoured borough away from Edmonton’s newest neighbourhoods is the Strathcona-Garneau area, rich with history, cafes and club-bound undergraduates.
While the area might not boast the highest median income in the city, it displays plenty of character and keeps things clean.
The local business association tracks graffiti in the area and passes its location along to the city’s graffiti removal squad.
There’s even a special bylaw aimed at beautifying and maintaining the area’s heritage buildings. The community league organizes reuse fairs to help residents recycle their unwanted household materials that might otherwise clutter up a garage, or worse, driveway. Shami Sandhu, broker and owner of the ReMax brokerage in the neighbourhood and a former commercial pilot, cites Garneau’s density as a critical factor in its appeal. He mentions restaurants, grocery stores, schools, bars and yoga studios all rubbing shoulders on the southern bank of the river.
“It’s all just footsteps away,” he says, mentioning the Kinsmen Sports Centre, the Metro Cinema and dining options like Da Capo and Remedy Cafe. “It’s a lifestyle down here.” And it’s one that draws all sorts.
Our survey reveals that economic diversity doesn’t much enter into your deliberations on the city’s best places, and that dovetails with sentiment in the whole of Edmonton. The City reports that complaints over residential property taxes dropped to 988 in 2012, down from almost 1,500 last year and nearly 5,000 in 2008.
Great neighbourhoods are great to different people. The appeal of Old Stratchona and Garneau extends from the hipster-glasses rocking crowd in Transcend Cofee to the bikers at the Whyte Avenue Tim Hortons to the panhandlers looking for spare change in between.