A building boom is going on in one of the city's oldest neighbourhoods as hundreds of new condominium units are either under construction or being planned over the next several years.

Jennifer Dobbin, who speaks for longtime Kensington developer the Dobbin Group, says the redevelopment plan for the community allows for higher densities — a plan endorsed by the city and the community association.

"Between infills, and the large developments that came through, Kensington is under the most pressure for redevelopment for established communities in Calgary," said Dobbin. 

"I think the number on the books right now is 1,500 new homes coming in."

Rapid change

The pace of change has stunned many in the community, says Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association board president Tim Kitchen. 

Organization volunteers normally review each application and work with stakeholders to ensure new developments don't take away from the character of the popular community.

"We literally gave up because we could not manage the volume of change coming at us," said Kitchen.

The community association anticipated the changes recommended by the area redevelopment plan would take place over a generation, but instead are happening in a four to five-year time span. 

Tim Kitchen

Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association board chair Tim Kitchen says the association works with developers on how new projects will benefit the community. (CBC)

"We're starting to see some of those things in real time — that's very exciting, but it's very unnerving, as well," said Kitchen.

To deal with all of the development, residents, developers, the community association, local business owners and city employees came up with a new model to discuss all of the projects. 

Calling it a "fishbowl," they all met Wednesday for a round-table discussion to air concerns and look for solutions. The Dobbin Group has been part of those conversations.

"It's not a 'No, you can't put a building there,' the conversation is 'let's put the right building there that serves the people and the needs of the community,'" says Dobbin.

"So, now we have to start teaching developers how to come and have these conversations because it has been adversarial."

The projects 

Dobbin says the company is trying to rezone 13 single family lots with historic homes along Memorial Drive west of 10th Street for a 70-unit project.

Another development is set to go up where the Lido Café and Ant Hill building are now, at 10th Street and Second Avenue northwest. 

The Lido project, by Calgary's Battistella Developments and also backed by the Dobbin Group, will average $600 per square foot. Sales started last month and already a quarter of the 60 units have been sold, says Battistella's Traci Wilson.

"There's a wide demographic, but everybody sort of has the same desire. They want to move into this area, they like a walkable lifestyle."

Construction on the Lido project is expected to start in the spring. The Lido Café will be torn down for the project, but the sign for the longtime breakfast spot will be saved and repurposed.

The company is also behind Pixel, a new condo building a block away. Almost complete, the building is already sold out. 

"We're blown away how many people want to live here," said Wilson. "A lot of empty nesters, baby boomers."

More condos are planned for the west side of 10th street. 

Carpenters' Union Hall and the building next to it on 10th Street will also be torn down to make way for a new, yet-to-be-named condo by Vancouver-based Bucci Developments Ltd. Sales are expected to begin in the fall.

Down the road, workers are putting the finishing touches on a building called St. John's Tenth Street — a project that includes 95 units.

And if you head the other way on 10th Street, on the corner of Kensington Road the owners of Osteria de Medici restaurant are looking to rezone their property. 

On Fifth Avenue, between 12th Street and 11A Street another condo is being planned by Birchwood Developments. The group is planning to knock down eight single-family homes along Riley Park. 

The city is also allowing the construction of laneway homes along 10A Street northwest as a pilot project.

  • CBC reporter Bryan Labby is covering the story and explained his findings so far on the Calgary Eyeopener:

Kensington development map

Click on the red markers for details. On mobile? Click here to view.

With files from Bryan Labby/CBC