Chestermere is poised for western expansion
When you’re one of the fastest growing communities in Canada, there’s only one thing to do as an encore: grow some more.
Located just east of Calgary, Chestermere’s rapid development placed the city fourth in Canada for growth over the past five years. Now, a comprehensive expansion plan is coming to fruition. The Waterbridge Master Area Structure Plan provided a long-range planning context for more than 2,400 acres along Chestermere’s western border, and the city’s population of 20,000 will expand as well – in fact, it is set to double.
“The 2014 Waterbridge plan will build out of a 35- to 45-year period and will include a number of residential neighbourhoods, with a focus on several commercial and employment land areas,” said Jeff Gibeau, planning and development services manager with the City of Chestermere.
As Gibeau describes it, this expansion is about the city “striving to ensure it is developed in a sustainable manner, while preserving its uniqueness and character as a community.”
That’s no small feat, which is why the planning process has been so extensive. It began with a growth strategy conceived by Chestermere’s city council 10 years ago, and continued with a growth study and a large-scale annexation of more than 5,000 acres of land in 2009. What is happening now is the culmination of numerous high-level planning processes and strong collaboration between the development community and the city.
It will all be done with one eye on maintaining Chestermere’s unique layout around a natural water body and the other on the city’s future.
“We need to ensure we have inclusive, complete communities with a diversity of housing types that can accommodate a range of residential needs,” said Gibeau.
“We need to ensure we have inclusive, complete communities with a diversity of housing types that can accommodate a range of residential needs.” – Jeff Gibeau, planning and development services manager with the City of Chestermere
That range includes young professionals, small families, more established households and seniors wanting to downsize. It fits perfectly with the current move towards “aging in place” neighbourhoods where people can move in, grow up and retire in the same area.
A prime example of this new development approach is the recently approved community of Bridgeport, conceived by WestCreek Developments.
“Bridgeport will function as an integrated community comprised of six neighbourhoods,” said Catherine Agar, manager of planning for WestCreek.
“These neighbourhoods will incorporate an interconnected, open-space system, allowing residents to be linked to residential and commercial zones, as well as parks and natural areas. This expansion will allow Chestermere to provide a more complete residential, commercial, recreational and service-oriented community to its new and current residents.”
The overall expansion area will include a recreation centre and a new library, and could feature other facilities as well, such as a field house, fitness centre, swimming pool and arena.
There will also be a variety of commercial space within Bridgeport. Small, medium and large retail formats are envisioned, with total commercial space of approximately 600,000 square feet. In addition, smaller commercial nodes are strategically located within the community.
With so much happening, these are heady times for Chestermere’s citizens.
“It’s really exciting to have the development community step up with different products than what you see in standard suburbia,” said longtime resident and former Chestermere city councillor Jenn Massig. “They’re taking a big-picture approach while retaining that small-town feel.”
Development of this scale is not without challenges, but it bodes well that all parties are applying the same level of passion to the process.
“I do this job because I believe in building high-quality, complete communities that are liveable and walkable – communities with employment and commercial opportunities, as well as schools, parks and trail systems,” said Gibeau.
“This expansion is one of the shining lights in the region, in that all the pieces fit together. The goal is that at build out, it will be a strong community that residents are proud to call home.”