Airdrie has a young, growing population that gives the small city a unique and attractive vibe. Courtesy City of Airdrie

Affordability, community and amenities have drawn many to Calgary’s northern neighbour

While most people take great care to choose the place they want to call home, one could say Airdrie chose Wendie and John Pilkington. More precisely, their son and his growing family chose Airdrie for them, when he relocated from England to a new job in the city of nearly 65,000.

Since 2014, the elder Pilkingtons have resided in Cooper’s Crossing, which has been voted Airdrie’s best community for five years in a row.

“Airdrie is where the kids are and that’s where we are,” said Wendie Pilkington, admitting that even when they first moved, they weren’t sure they would remain. After nearly 30 years of living in England’s comparatively grey climes, Airdrie’s year-round sunshine was particularly attractive.

“We thought, ‘we’ll start out in Airdrie and see how it goes.’ After one winter here, we decided, ‘this is where we’ll stay,’ ” she said. “For five minutes, we thought we might move to west Calgary, but then we’d be looking into someone else’s backyard.”

Airdrie is also popular with homebuyers because of its comparative affordability. According to CREB®’s 2017 Regional Housing Market Mid-Year Update, released in August, the benchmark price for a detached home in Calgary was $505,114, while the benchmark price for a detached dwelling in Airdrie came in at $377,243.

“Airdrie is a vibrant and caring community. We have a wide range of social and recreational amenities enjoyed by a range of age groups, especially young families.” – Stephen Utz, City of Airdrie community growth manager.

Pilkington says she finds Airdrie’s residents approachable and friendly, and that she always feels safe in the city, a sentiment shared by 99 per cent of citizens who responded to Airdrie’s 2017 Citizen Satisfaction Survey.

“Airdrie is a vibrant and caring community. We have a wide range of social and recreational amenities enjoyed by a range of age groups, especially young families,” said Stephen Utz, Airdrie’s community growth manager. “Our proximity to Calgary, a major transportation corridor in the form of the QEII Highway, as well as the Calgary International Airport, is very attractive to a wide variety of potential purchasers.”

While Pilkington appreciates Airdrie’s proximity to the Calgary International Airport and Calgary itself, she says she doesn’t find herself travelling into Calgary much, except for her part-time job at the Peter Lougheed Hospital and the occasional symphony or theatre outing.

“Everything is here in Airdrie that we need,” she said. “We have shopping. We’ve got good restaurants.”

Airdrie also offers several attractive amenities, including Genesis Place, the city’s highly trafficked recreation centre.

Courtesy City of Airdrie

However, Pilkington worries that programs at Genesis Place – and throughout Airdrie in general – are not sufficient to accommodate the growing population. For example, she says it’s difficult to register her granddaughters in swimming lessons, as they fill up very quickly.

“The infrastructure does need to catch up. The facilities have fallen behind the number of people who live here,” said Pilkington, once again echoing the Citizen Satisfaction Survey, in which 29 per cent of respondents cited infrastructure as the city’s most important issue.

According to Airdrie’s 2016 census, 35 per cent of the city’s population is between the ages of 25 and 44, while approximately 30 per cent is 19 or younger, lending a young flavour to the city.

A.J. van der Linden, sales manager with Vesta Properties, says those statistics inform the type of dwellings Vesta constructs. “Our homes are geared to first-time homebuyers,” he said, adding that these first-time buyers are often young professionals with families.

Vesta Properties started building in Airdrie in 2000. Van der Linden says Airdrie’s proximity to Calgary – and its position along the highway – make it an important location for developers and, in turn, for homebuyers.

“Airdrie is still seeing growth,” said van der Linden, referencing Airdrie’s 2017 census, which recorded a 4.98 per cent increase in population, contrasted with Calgary’s growth rate of less than one per cent. “There are at least five or six active developments in Airdrie. It’s still a hopping place.”