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Calgary & Edmonton Micro-loft development in Calgary’s East Village finding a big market

Bigger isn’t necessarily better; at least that’s what the sales team at INK by Battistella are telling prospective buyers at Calgary’s latest micro-loft development. Located in the city’s up-and-coming East Village, they claim to have the city’s smallest floor-plan, starting from just 368 square feet, with a tiny $179,000 price tag to match.

Sales commenced just four weeks ago and the development, slated for completion in 2018, is already 40 per cent sold. Not bad considering nearby competition includes a development with 460-square-foot floor plans that claims to be 90-per-cent sold after just eight weeks on the market.

Battistella’s general manager, Paul Battistella, says sales have been “surprisingly encouraging” and “other projects are certainly more challenging for us at this time.”

The INK condominium by Battistella

So, in a city renowned for endless urban sprawl and gigantic homes, who’s looking for a life less-spacious?

Twenty-year-old apprentice welder Ben Lautermilch recently became the proud owner of one of the city’s smallest condos: INK’s 368-square-foot studio.

He’s a typical first-time buyer. Living with his parents has allowed him to save a healthy deposit and he’s in no rush to leave the comforts of home. He’s been shopping around for a couple of years and says his new pad’s got everything he needs in a location he loves.

“The East Village is amazing and the next three or four years are going to be really exciting there. I knew that’s where I wanted to live; it was just a case of finding the right place.”

The right place for Mr. Lautermilch includes a mortgage small enough to let him enjoy himself and a property small enough to suit his low-maintenance lifestyle. “In my line of work I’m out of town a lot, sometimes for a couple of weeks at a time, so I don’t need a large space. I wanted somewhere I don’t have to worry about when I’m away and somewhere that lets me enjoy myself when I’m home.”

Mr. Lautermilch says “micro-living” wasn’t really on his radar, but “easy living, comfortable and affordable” were. “I didn’t know it was a trend and I never considered the size to be an issue. I just don’t use much space and I’d prefer to live in a cool location than have spare rooms.”

Price was also a big attraction for Mr. Lautermilch, whose goal was always to ensure he didn’t end up house poor. “I want to be able to eat out and go out and have fun with my friends. I’m not giving that up just to become a homeowner.”

A micro-condo in the INK condominium by Battistella.

The East Village’s promising recreation scene was one of the major reasons why Battistella decided on micro-lofts for this particular tract of land.

“Homes like these need to be in a really special environment,” Mr. Battistella says, “a place that has a high concentration of commercial buildings, public spaces and parks. Calgary really hasn’t had anywhere like that until now. In many ways, the social environment immediately outside the home is the lifestyle the home promises.”

Lifestyle was on the minds of Josh and Christel Edwards, both 34, when curiosity led them to check out what the East Village had to offer. The couple currently live in Airdrie, 32 kilometres north of Calgary’s city centre, where they have a three-bedroom house with a two-car garage.

Though Calgary is known for massive homes, micro condos that make efficient use of space allow for a different kind of lifestyle with an emphasis on location.

Having been seduced by the simplicity of downtown condo living, they’ll swap their 2,100-square-foot of living space for a 689-square-foot two-bed and two-bath condo. While technically not a “micro” property – generally defined as smaller than 600 square feet, though this varies by city – it’s a big decrease in floor-space for the couple. They’ll also downsize to one or no vehicles.

“We’re aware our decision goes against the grain in Calgary,” Mr. Edwards says. “It’s a city where people want a sprawling house, a big yard and large vehicles. But we just don’t want to be tied to that house and yard and vehicles any more.”

The Edwards built their Airdrie home five years ago. They chose Airdrie over Calgary to save $50,000 in upgrades for their home. “The decisions we made then were based on getting more bang for our buck, but we’re at different places in our lives and careers now and we’re looking for a lifestyle change. The East Village is going to be a great place to live and it’s where we want to be.”

A micro-condo living space

Mr. Edwards says downsizing will be tough and cites “drawers of DVDs, shelves of books, a basement full of tools and boxes of seasonal decorations” as just some of the things the couple will be selling or giving to Goodwill.

“We accumulate so much in this culture and sometimes you look around and think, ‘Why do we even have all this stuff?’ We’re looking forward to streamlining our lives.”

The couple are also excited at the prospect of more financial freedom and expect to take full advantage by travelling more. “We don’t have any firm destinations yet, but it’s definitely part of the plan.”

Mr. Battistella is already sizing up the super-micro scene – such as the 226-square-foot condos available in Vancouver – but he admits he’s not convinced Calgary is ready for such tiny lodgings.

“Calgary’s generally a little behind on innovations like this, but it usually gets there eventually. Would we rule out going even smaller? No. We’re always up for pushing the boundaries. It’s something we may test on a reduced scale at some point in the future. Is Calgary there yet? I’m not sure.”

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