Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Frogs aren’t the only thing with a lifecycle: Communities have one too


Posted by Derek Pomreinke

I moved to Calgary ten years ago and I can honestly say that it was the best choice I ever made. This city’s energy, culture, entertainment and career opportunities are so robust that it’s easy to picture living the rest of my life here. Since I am now considering buying a home, I have been thinking lately about the differences between living in new communities and older ones.

Through my work at The City, I know that communities go through a regular and predictable pattern over the course of their life. This community lifecycle pattern affects many different aspects of each neighbourhood and gives each part of Calgary a different flavour.

Because new communities are usually on the edge of the city, housing is available at a relatively low cost that is more affordable for young, first-time home buyers. As a result, the first group of residents moving into a community is typically young couples who either have children or are looking to start a family. Businesses that open in these communities know their market and provide services for the family and home.


Fifteen to twenty years later, the population of the community starts decreasing as children grow up and move out. The community schools have fewer students and businesses start to change to meet the new market demands. The price of homes has usually risen beyond the reach of new entry-level home buyers and so the community has to build cheaper housing options in order to attract new young families and maintain a high enough population to support the desirable businesses and schools.

At this point, communities typically start to see the development of more medium-density and multi-family housing like apartments, townhouses, secondary suites and duplexes. The community starts to be rejuvenated with a new generation of residents and there is a unique mix of new and old. Over the years, the added density and new development also allows for infrastructure upgrades and new businesses, which further add to the character of the area.

Calgary has many communities at each of these lifecycle phases. Many of our established communities were recently at the point where their population was declining, but now we are seeing signs that these areas are entering the next lifecycle phase and are starting to rejuvenate themselves and grow again. We will need to continue this trend by offering cheaper housing options in these areas if we are going to meet our Municipal Development Plan goal of accommodating half our population growth in established communities.


Each of these community phases may be attractive to me at different points in my life, and the great thing about Calgary is that I’ll always have those options. As the city grows, we will continue to see our communities transform as they move through this lifecycle, so no matter where I choose to buy a home I will likely get to experience most of these phases – which will keep both my life at work and home interesting for years to come.

Derek Pomreinke is a Planner with The City’s Geodemographics team in Land Use Planning & Policy.

2 comments:

  1. Love this. Redensifying inner cities with younger people needs to happen. And then,when their kids want to go to school, they'll be able to go to local already establiilshed schools. Except the outer edge families, who currently have their kids bused to the center to go to these schools, will have no buildings in their neighborhoods because the planners thought busing would work.

    Each community ebbs and flows, each community deserves resources as they are build to guarantee sustainability. Calgary is in dire need of new schools now. Dozens of them. Now.

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    1. I don't think you can pin the lack of schools on planners. The province funds this and capital funds rarely are timely under conditions of fairly strong growth. The sites are available, the school board would like to serve families, but without the build-out population, and a backlog of schools still to be built / underused facilities on the books, it's hard to justify.

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