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A new infill property in River Flats combines 21st century lifestyle with 100 year-old charm

Feb. 7, 2019

Delanie Hanna drove past the little brown house on Ross Street a few times. She was looking for a creative project and knew the property had potential.

The 106 year-old house was uninhabitable, so when Hanna and her husband, Dustin Boire, purchased the building it was demolished in April 2017 to make room for a new home.

“I wanted to challenge the idea that building a new house means it has to be over 2,000 square feet,” says Hanna, who designed the home. “I envisioned this as a cute, cozy place to live, giving the convenience to visit coffee shops and hit the trails.”

A combination of architectural controls and the property’s features presented a unique design challenge for Hanna, who wanted to combine the elements of 21st century lifestyle with the character of a mature neighbourhood.

The property is in the heart of the River Flats, a neighbourhood of tree-lined streets, turn-of-the-century houses, city parks, easy access to the city’s Heritage Trail System and downtown Medicine Hat’s quaint cafés.

The goal: keep the mature trees and spacious yard while incorporating a small house and a two-car garage with space for hobbies.

The plan had to account for property setback rules, exterior finishes, a garage door that did not face the main street, and power poles that block access to the rear lane.

A Growing Community

Medicine Hat is a growing community of 63,260 residents located in the southeast corner of Alberta. The city’s population grew by 5.6% from 2011 to 2016, according to Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census. People are drawn to the city by the low cost of living, an enviable climate with hot, dry summers and short, mild winters, and the promise of jobs.

In recent years, Medicine Hat and region seen a flurry of new economic activity including data mining, cannabis production, hemp processing, and renewable energy. With nearly $1 billion dollars in construction activity committed and underway in the region, promising hundreds of new full time jobs, the opportunity to purchase a $100,000 riverfront lot in won’t last forever.

“People are looking to live in established neighbourhoods that have character, like Riverside and the River Flats,” says Kent Snyder, general manager of Planning and Development Services at the City of Medicine Hat. “The large trees and walkability are a huge draw.”

As Medicine Hat grows, city council’s strategic plan seeks to develop aging infrastructure and set the stage for infill projects, ranging from single family homes to multi-family apartments.

The River Flats, for example, is one of Medicine Hat’s original neighbourhoods, with the first developments dating back to the 1900s. Currently, approximately 3,000 people live in the neighbourhood and it is expected to grow by another 4,500 residents in future years, according to the River Flats Area Redevelopment Plan.

In addition to residential infill, the River Flats neighbourhood has undergone a commercial revival. Commercial properties that had fallen into disrepair are being renovated into Airbnb’s, community centres and cafes.

Making space

Looking at the new house at 923 Ross Street from the front sidewalk, the home looks like many others in the neighbourhood, with a pitched roof, veranda, and brick façade.

Hardie board cement siding mimics the wood grain of older homes while strategically-placed windows make it appear as if it is an ordinary two-story house.

“We thought the lot was too beautiful to (design with) sprawl,” says Hanna of the house and garage. “So, we decided to make the buildings’ footprint smaller to preserve the trees and have a large yard.”

Entering from the front door, stairs from a foyer lead up to a bright, open-concept kitchen and living room area with tree-top level views of the neighbourhood. From the vaulted ceiling to the kitchen pantry, Hanna designed all 989 square feet to maximize space.

One solution, putting the kitchen pantry in line with the countertops and appliances, opened more closet space in the master bedroom.

The bedrooms were designed with closet space in mind while a balcony attached to the master bedroom incorporates the outdoors.

Downstairs, the 24-foot by 25-foot heated garage has a 100 square foot sink area, plus room for storage under the stairs.

In addition to a charming balcony and space for parking and storage, the home is designed down to the detail with energy efficiency in mind.

An HRV air heating and conditioning system, Rockwool insulation and energy efficient stainless steel Whirlpool appliances are just a couple of amenities that bring the house up to code with the Government of Alberta’s new energy efficiency guidelines.

“I wanted to design the house to use up the space in the best way possible,” says Hanna. “I was aiming for small square footage in one crisp square.”