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The pros and condos of living downtown

by Brittany Ekelund

The pros

DINKS – double income, no kids. This is the type of client that Jonathan Lusok, an Edmonton realtor, often sees looking to buy property in downtown Edmonton. They’re young, they’re single and they’re looking to be in the heart of it.

Two such DINKs are Elizabeth Dowdell (a graduate student at the UofA) and Daniel Pietraszewski (a teacher). They bought a condo in the heart of Oliver in 2015, a decision they have never regretted.

“There were other more affordable options in the suburbs, but that’s not something that either one of us would have liked to do,” said Pietraszewski. “To be perfectly honest, I hope that I never live in the suburbs again because I did that as a kid, and it just felt like I was trapped in the middle of nowhere.”

For them, living downtown is about a sustainable social lifestyle and not being chained to a vehicle. Parks, pubs, coffee shops and restaurants, all of them are just a few minutes away on foot. There’s always something to do and someone to see (though admittedly less these days, what with the pandemic and all). Living in a condo is another way to reduce their footprint, sharing energy and living vertically in the city’s concrete jungle, while the local community league offers events to connect the neighbourhood.

“It’s like it’s just a regular neighbourhood,” says Pietraszewski, who says that some people may see downtown as being colder and more callous than the ‘burbs. “There’s warmth, there’s trees, there’s greens. You know, people hanging out on their grass.”

Dowdell agrees, and she says the stereotypes about downtown being dangerous or loud are just that, stereotypes. Yes, she says, there is the occasional siren or shopping cart rattling down the alley, but there’s other sounds too – bird song, laughter and conversation floating in from the surrounding condos and green spaces.

“I find that really comforting for there to always be people around and people sounds, whether it’s in the building or in the neighbourhood,” says Dowdell. “I feel very safe, even living next door the bar.”

“People on the street, eyes on the street – feels like safety to me.”

The cons

But not everyone loves the cacophony of living so close to the club.

In 2013, Olivia Kucharzow bought her condo, just off Railtown Park near Edmonton’s busy 109th street thoroughfare. She was in her mid-twenties, and she liked the idea of walking to work and being close to bars and restaurants, though living right next to the downtown Canadian Brewhouse location has somewhat soured the relationship.

Olivia Kucharzow is just one of twelve condo owners at Railtown off the Park trying to sell in a saturated downtown condo market.  Photo by Brittany Ekelund. 

“On the weekends, I am woken up quite often by people drunkenly screaming and partying in the parking lot until three of four o’clock in the morning,” says Kucharzow.  Now that she is older, quieter, and working from home during the pandemic, she’s selling her downtown property and setting her sights on the south side.

“It’s not really as important to me anymore to be able to walk to a restaurant or a bar on a Friday or Saturday night. I’m kind of at a different point in my life, so I’d be happy to be out in the suburbs, enjoying the peace and quiet at 7 p.m.”

But, while low interest rates have led to a four per cent increase in the housing market, Kucharzow is selling for less than what her property is worth. This is a result of an oversaturated condo market in the downtown area as owners leave for the suburbs, upgrade to a home, or move into a premium condo in new developments like Blatchford or Encore Tower.

While that’s bad news for Kucharzow, it’s also good news for Kucharzow.

“The only reason I’m okay with it is that prices across the board are going down, so I’ll be saving money when I buy something new.”

The condos

Whether you’re a DINK, a party animal or an environmentally conscious commuter, downtown living might be the right fit for you. With condos priced to sell, now is as good a time as any to make your move and join the thriving communities in Edmonton’s concrete jungle.

Now may be the time to invest in property downtown. In a few steps and with a little advice, you could be in your new home in no time.

Lusok says that condos are great for those who crave ease of use. Large repairs and renovations are handled by management, with costs shared by the whole community. And don’t be scared of condo fees either – higher fees often mean more money for upkeep and a better chance at maintaining or increasing your property’s value. As for pesky chores, you can kiss them goodbye.

“When you live in a condo, you don’t shovel snow, you don’t cut grass, you lock your keys, and you go.”

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