The outer limits: Why younger Edmonton professionals are eschewing Downtown residing for the suburbs

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Mar 22, 20223 days ago3 minutes read 6 comments Downtown Edmonton skyline. Downtown Edmonton skyline. Photo by File photo

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As Edmonton’s newer neighborhoods ripple outwards beyond Anthony Henday Drive, the city’s Downtown core is undergoing another shift.

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Initially rejuvenated by Rogers Place and the accompanying Ice District, Downtown resembled a ghost town during the COVID-19 pandemic as high-rises were devoid of office workers, sapping foot traffic from the usual bustling sidewalks.

Jared Cox, a real estate agent with Sterling Real Estate who has been in the business for 24 years, says the pandemic has changed the perception of Downtown Edmonton from being a red-hot destination for young professionals to a barren assortment of towering buildings with unsold condo units.

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“I think (the pandemic) has definitely caused a lot of people to reconsider their priorities, their work-life balance,” says Cox, who says he has clients tell him they’d rather focus on their lifestyles than being physically close to work .

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Affordability, lack of food services and safety are among the top issues hampering people from moving downtown, suggests Cox. However, with work-from-home orders being lifted, some workers in far-flung suburbs expect to begin questioning if their hour-long commutes into Downtown are worth living outside the core.

Edmonton’s real estate market continues to draw the majority of young, first-time property purchasers to look to the city’s new neighborhooods, says Cox.

“The key thing with it is it’s new and shiny,” says Cox about the appeal of Edmonton’s suburbs. “There’s a status symbol associated with it. People love getting in on the ground floor of new initiatives, new neighborhoods.”

Suburbs in southwest and southeast Edmonton continue to attract homebuyers; Neighborhoods such as Maple, Keswick, Chappelle and Glenridding Ravine saw robust residential development in 2021.

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In addition to the allure of “new home smell” are amenities such as schools and playgrounds which are being built to address neighborhoods that see an influx of young families.

Newlywed couple Renato Pagnani and Baillie Scheetz found that Downtown living wasn’t conducive to their lifestyles.

“We thought downtown was somewhere we might want to live permanently, but we realized that the lack of green space and constant issues with the building in which we rented soured the idea for us,” says Pagnani.

Close proximity to restaurants and work was appealing to the couple, but the constant construction and a lack of a nearby grocery store soured them on living Downtown, not to mention the challenge of raising a French bulldog in a 16th-floor apartment unit.

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The couple eventually settled into a home in the North Glenora neighborhood, citing its central location and affordability as reasons.

“We knew we always wanted to be central, near the river valley, and have the ability to drive less and walk more. We knew we could buy a bigger and newer home on the outskirts of town, but it wasn’t worth the trade off for us,” says Pagnani.

The allure of middle “former” suburbs is that young families can take over a home built in the ’90s to early 2000s with larger yards for children and less maintenance compared to a house built in the 1950s-60s, says Cox. Homes built over 60 years ago are not lifestyle friendly to young buyers, as many contain bedrooms measuring only nine-by-10 feet and lack other features such as ensuites.

“You have kind of the best of both worlds. The lot sizes are not as big as they used to be but you know there’s room to put a trampoline and a swim set for your kids,” says Cox, who finds a lot of young buyers are not interested in buying an older home to fix up

Edmonton’s infill market continues to generate interest from buyers, but Cox says increasing plot and material prices are expected to slow momentum in 2022.

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