530 Crescent Rd. NW Calgary
Asking Price: $3,550,000
Taxes: $16,665.00 (2021)
Lot Size: 28.9- by 120-feet
Agents: John A. McNeill, Century 21 Bamber Realty Ltd.
In 2013 the Bow and Elbow Rivers overflowed their banks, flooding downtown Calgary, a multibillion dollar disaster that was the largest flood in the city since 1932.
Married couple Kalvin MacDonald and Karin Winkler were among the 100,000 people who evacuated the area as water swamped their ground-floor condominium apartment. In the aftermath a question lingered: should they renovate or maybe consider moving to higher ground?
“We were down by the river for 22 years in a great condo. … We’ve always lived in condos, but how about a house?” said Mr. MacDonald.
They loved the views on Crescent Road but there was nothing for sale, so their realtor at the time cracked open the phonebook: “She phoned every owner of old homes on this block, and talked one into selling,” said Mr. MacDonald.
The couple ended up buying an older home and set about the process of working with builders and architects to knock it down and fashion a new custom home that would give them some of the amenities of condo life they had gotten used to.
The house itself is still just a 15 minute walk to downtown, but with stunning vistas.
“I don’t think there’s a better view in Calgary than on this ridge,” Ms. Winkler said. “There’s a full city view, and a mountain view if you look to the west.”
In some ways the entire house is oriented toward the view: the modernist building has a main floor wall of windows 13-feet high – made special in Belgium – and a similar wall of windows on the second floor. There are outdoor spaces with built-in fireplaces to extend the social hours on chilly nights.
“We purposely wanted to have those outdoor areas, sitting out with dogs or friends [the couple has two chihuahua’s]. … The architect [Sean McCormick of Jackson McCormick Design Group] came back with the idea for that front courtyard, and that’s a 55,000 BTU fireplace,” Mr. MacDonald said. What was nice to have in the pre-pandemic era became a must-have as indoor socialization was limited during the lockdown months. “Being able to sit out in the front courtyard, with blankets late at night … it was awesome,” he said.
The House Today
The feature sheet on this home includes an almost bewildering variety of home automation devices and options that are not merely toys but define the experience of the house as much as the views do.
“The builder and the home automation specialists really presented us with all the options, I’d like to say we refused one,” Mr. MacDonald said, grinning, though he confesses he can’t recall turning anything down. “I’m an engineer and I like tech.”
For instance: the front walkways, the rear laneway driveway, courtyard and that concrete terrace are all heated, meaning only a strip of municipal sidewalk ever needs shovelling. “It’s not on all the time, there’s sensors outside so, if it snows, it turns on,” Mr. MacDonald said. The glycol boiler system also heats the interior floors and runs through the forced-air furnace as well. There are two boilers and more than a dozen pumps in the mechanical room for this high-tech system.
There are also gates that lock magnetically at the front and back – more for wild-life than trespassers – and exterior cameras have caught the occasional solicitor or paper-delivery man clambering over gates that defeat most men and beasts.
Also on the home tech list: all lights are programmable; speakers in every room (including the showers) that can connect to streaming audio such as Spotify; motorized window blinds and phantom screens for doorways; an elevator; an automated irrigation system; water sensors in the laundry and mechanical rooms. All of this can be controlled from panels in the gym, office and bedroom or by mobile device or desktop computer.
The front entrance is set back beside the main living area. Large glass panes can slide back to make the front terrace one large indoor-outdoor space. From the living room there are two steps into the formal dining room at the centre of the floorplan, and another two steps up into the kitchen. On the very back of the house is a screened in back deck and an office workspace (with motorized desks for sitting or standing). Sitting in the office, you can turn around and look straight through to the front terrace and beyond. “The idea was, wherever you are, you have a view to the downtown,” Mr. MacDonald said. “We’re in some ways kinda’ traditional: we like to eat at home. In our condo the kitchen and office were on opposite ends, now the kitchen is right off the office.”
The elevator entrance on this level is also in the kitchen, as is the powder room.
A curved staircase off the formal dining room heads upstairs and downstairs, at the base of the basement stairs is a mudroom/storage area with built-in cabinets and access to the garage and elevator (good for grocery loading). A few steps down is the gym/rec room, that is currently decked out like it’s a small condo’s gym. There’s also bathroom with shower on this level.
The second floor almost entirely devoted to the primary bedroom, a huge walk-in closet and a large five-piece bathroom. A laundry room is across from the elevator and behind that is a rear-yard-facing guest bedroom with its own ensuite bathroom.
The third floor is a sort-of man-cave in the sky according to Mr. MacDonald, although the next owner could turn it into a teenager’s dream suite.
The main part of this level is a family room with built-in cabinets that Mr. MacDonald uses as a display case for his guitars. “For really good acoustic guitars, they have to be humidified,” Mr. MacDonald said. The glass case with-built in humidifier allows them to be on display without damaging the wood. “That’s something I designed. … We call that little area the music room,” he said.
There’s also large roof deck off the music room, with another built-in outdoor fireplace. A third bedroom takes up the back half of this level, with separate bathroom across from the elevator.
The Crescent area is a mix of more traditional and newly built homes, some of which are truly enormous; there’s a home under construction down the street on two lots that is costing tens of millions to build.
“That big house is seven years in and it’s still not done,” Ms. Winkler said. “It takes a lot of work to build these houses. As far as the area goes, you would not find a friendlier area; the people up here are just amazing, it’s small-town friendly.” She has a walking and running group that takes advantage of the neighbourhood trails, and finds she can do most of her errands without a car.
The only reason they are leaving is they are thinking of building yet another new house, with the experience of the first outing offering some confidence.
“Our neighbour said you have to build three new houses before you get it right,” said Ms. Winkler, though she mentions anyone who buys 530 doesn’t have to deal with that stress: “They can just walk into one.”