Brentwood crowned Calgary's best neighbourhood for 2 years running

The president of the Brentwood Community Association explains what makes the community so special.

Avenue magazine's annual survey weighs walkability, access to parks, recreation

According to the Brentwood Community Association's president, Bonita McCurry, the neighborhood's accessibility, abundance of green spaces, family businesses and community spirit make it special. (Harry Sanders)

For the second year in a row, the northwest community of Brentwood has claimed the No. 1 spot on an annual list of Calgary's best neighbourhoods. 

The list is compiled by Avenue magazine, and scores neighbourhoods on characteristics such as walkability and access to parks and restaurants. 

And it's not a popularity contest — there is methodology behind the list.

The rankings are calculated by surveying Calgarians about what they value most in a community, and then weighing those results with data from sources that include the City of Calgary, the Calgary Police Service and a Walk Score to evaluate characteristics such as green spaces, crime and accessibility.

So, what exactly makes Brentwood such a standout? 

Bonita McCurry, the president of the volunteer-run Brentwood Community Association, has lived in the neighbourhood for 31 years.

She told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday that an abundance of volunteers, family businesses, malls and parks contribute to why Brentwood is special.

"We're really a self-sufficient neighborhood," McCurry said. "And there are a lot of people that walk around this community, and we try and keep it beautiful for them."

A little about Brentwood

Brentwood is on the cusp of the inner-city, and is close to both Nose Hill Park and the University of Calgary.

Walk Score estimates there are about 36 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the neighbourhood, and it takes neighbourhood residents an average of five minutes to reach two of them on foot. 

With its own CTrain station, and about seven bus lines running through it, Brentwood also ranks well on Walk Score in regards to public transit. It also has several major intersections that McCurry said makes it easily accessible for drivers.

The City of Calgary's recent renovations to Blakiston Park have made it a draw for people around the city, and McCurry said that Brentwood's smaller green spaces are attractive to dog owners.

Volunteers painted pathways between St. Jean Brebeuf School, Sir Winston Churchill High School, Captain John Palliser School and Simon Fraser School in September of 2019 — and the results are interactive and beautiful, McCurry said.

"You can go and play games on the pathway. It's got pictures all over it," she said.

"Probably what makes the community the best is our volunteers."

Brentwood social scene

There is also a lot of socializing in Brentwood, McCurry said.

Calendars can be kept busy with block parties, community cleanups, New Year's Day skating parties and potlucks.

The pandemic hasn't stifled the community spirit. 

Residents have taken part in virtual art classes together, and one of the neighbourhood's "free little libraries" — usually stocked with books for passersby to read and replace — was turned into a "little free food library" by the Brentwood Cares community group.

It was stocked with food donations to help residents-in-need during the pandemic.

"People who need it would come to this little library and take what they need," McCurry said. "We're still doing it."

So many contributions were amassed that McCurry said donations eventually went to Brooks and High River, when meat packing plants experienced outbreaks of COVID-19.

"It's a beautiful community," McCurry said.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.


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