Walkable Edmonton invigorates health and community
In the little over a decade since realtor Sara Kalke began selling homes, Edmonton has undergone a seismic shift.
“When I first started in real estate in 2005 it seemed like everybody wanted to live in the suburbs,” says Sara Kalke, of the Walkable Edmonton project, a website dedicated to exploring Edmonton’s burgeoning urban communities.
Capital has poured into the downtown and surrounding areas. Punctuated by the Ice District, there is currently $5.5 billion in development underway in the downtown core alone.
With this dramatic change comes a shift by some Edmontonians to move away from the “Mac-Mansion” in the burbs toward high-density, amenity filled, walkable neighborhoods in the city center.
Spurred by what Kalke sees as an explosion of young entrepreneurship in the form of boutique shopping, cafés, restaurants and innovative startups, buyers have come to realize it’s not about what kind of house you’re buying, but what kind of life you’re getting.
“I was having [conversations] with buyers saying, ‘Find me a house that’s walkable,'” recalls Kalke. “What they were outlining was a key group of neighbourhoods and a lifestyle.”
The Walkable Edmonton project is the direct result of these conversations. Part homebuyer resource, part city guide, Walkable Edmonton is a reflection of Kalke’s longstanding relationship and passion for the city—having grown up in Mckernan.
Currently, Walkable Edmonton provides details on five communities: Downtown, Oliver, Westmount, Garneau and Old Strathcona, with immediate plans to include Ritchie. Each area is explored through the categories of food, parks, family, shops, and fun. The site is supported by a host of other resources such as a collection of local blogs and numerous testimonials from community residents.
In a period of rapid expansion, Walkable Edmonton fills a much-needed gap in both publicizing the city to those who are interested in moving here and providing a hub for it’s current residents to seek out new experiences and re-engage with the core.
While aspects of the site are focused toward retail business, Kalke emphasizes the point of her effort is to promote the values of a walkable lifestyle first and business interests second.
“People are realizing they only have so many hours in a day,” Kalke says. “They want to spend those hours doing as many things that makes them happy as possible.”
In promoting walkability, Kalke hopes that Edmontonians will not only enrich their own lives, but also enrich the tapestry of the communities they live in.
“If there was one thing about walkability that I think is the coolest that you actually get to meet people,” Kalke says. “If you’re out and walking in your neighbourhood and your neighbours are out and walking, you actually get to know each other.”
Kalke can be found most days at Café Leva on her way between meetings, or walking through the river valley with her husband, their four-year-old and their two Yorkshire Terriers.