LaVita Properties president Tony Robinson said the live/work units at the Trading Post project in Cochrane have been so popular that the company is planning a similar project in the Fireside community. Photo by Michelle Hofer/For CREB®Now.

Live-work concept grabs holds in Cochrane

In a town of less than 20,000 residents, the traditionally large urban centred live-work concept is proving to be a big hit. Cochrane town council has just given approval of amendments to its land-use bylaw to ensure specific guidelines are in place for both developers and owners of units in mixed-use residential/commercial projects.

This comes after LaVita Properties, the developer behind Cochrane’s first live/work project aptly titled Satellite Townhomes in Sunset Ridge’s Trading Post development announced it is already planning a second similar venture.

“We anticipate the option growing in what is a strong entrepreneurial community,” said town planner Robyn Rechenmacher, referring to the strength of the home-based business sector, which currently accounts for 40 per cent of business in Cochrane.

Rechenmacher added the live/work concept gives buyers the flexibility to grow their business beyond a home office while still being part of their residence.

For future developments, she said, the amendments make it logistically easier for both developers and town staff by capturing specific rules for such future projects.

Under the bylaw amendment, at least 50 per cent of each live/work unit must be residential with separate entrances for the commercial and residential space. Neither space can be rented out.

A development permit will be required to change property use, including the ratio of commercial-to-residential square footage.

Businesses allowed in live/work developments will include medical clinics, offices, personal service shops and arts and crafts studios. They cannot include anything considered hazardous to residential units below, including restaurants.

Businesses cannot employ more than two people, commercial operations are restricted to the ground floor and business hours have to be between 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Under the bylaw amendment, live/work units can be added to high-density residential (three storeys and over), local commercial, shopping centre, heritage mixed-use and commercial/residential mixed-use districts.

LaVita Properties president Tony Robinson said the company’s live/work Satellite Townhomes in Sunset Ridge’s Trading Post community have proven popular, with 28 of the 40 townhomes already sold.

Half of those sold are being used as businesses on the ground floors (of about 350 square feet) and a two-storey residences on top. Starting in the $350,000s they are marketed as home to the “30-second commute.”

Robinson said LaVita first considered including the live/work option – the townhomes can also simply be used as residences with the designated work space instead being a developed basement – because Sunset is removed from downtown Cochrane.

“We felt a need existed for smaller commercial space to serve mainly professionals like consultants and engineers,” he said.

The project helped people establish home-based businesses without having to go through the lengthy development permit process.

Because it is an approved use in Trading Post, the townhome owner just needs a business licence.

While Robinson agrees that live/work projects have traditionally flourished in larger urban centres, particularly in downtown, he said it’s not limited to that either.

“It’s definitely a lifestyle community, close to the mountains and outdoor activities, so people don’t necessarily want to live and work in the big city,” he said of Cochrane.

LaVita’s second work/live project in Fireside will include residential units on top of small commercial spaces.

That second phase – phase one will be all residential — is expected to launch in 2017/18.