MIZA Architects | Common Place

Common Place

Young people want to stay in cities, develop community roots, and raise families. Edmonton, like many Canadian cities, has developed housing over time at either end of the density spectrum — low-density suburban homes or high-density apartment towers — leaving a gap in the middle.
This project offers features typically found in traditional single-family homes but couples them with moments designed for community connection and exchange.
The form and scale of development remain sensitive to the surrounding neighbourhood, fostering ground-oriented living spaces and diverse housing options for students, singles, and seniors, as well as families hoping to age in place.
This approach focuses on the benefits of increased density and greater interaction between neighbours to stimulate the exchange of ideas and create resilient communities.

Project Data

The four-storey building contains 28 residential units ranging from one to four bedrooms set atop a 34-stall parkade forming a new ground plane for the building. Four street-level units along 106 St are designated as Live/Work, while two Commercial Retail Units flank 112 Ave. An Amenity Space anchors the southwest corner.

Zoning Data

The proposal adopts the spirit of RA7 development in terms of unit density and height, but anticipates a DC2 rezoning in light of the neighbourhood’s transitional state. Primary variances include the allowable FAR (1.53 or 1.19, if the City permits an exclusion for parking), reduced setbacks to reflect an urban response at grade consistent with transit-oriented developments and future nearby densification.

Site Context

The project uses the scale and form of the existing neighbourhood as its organizational reference point. Two linear housing volumes, adjacent to either street or lane, mimic the existing rhythm of house and garage repeated throughout the neighborhood. The long volumes are carved
out periodically in a pattern that references typical gaps and setbacks between existing houses on the block. A significant amount of green space is retained on site and all units face both the courtyard garden and street, enjoying sun exposure throughout the day. The project offers
welcoming pedestrian entry points from both street frontages and vehicle entry at the lane. Residents arriving from the north meander up the gentle terraced landscape to courtyard level while residents arriving from the south choose either a generous stair or resident elevator. L-shaped units create cozy entrance alcoves to foster neighbourly interaction while the courtyard remains open and visible to all. These context-sensitive strategies knit the new development into its existing surroundings in ways that are easily scaled and transported to infill opportunities in other mature neighbourhoods.

Form + Materiality

The separated housing blocks are spaced with intention and employ a contemporary vernacular expression with pitched roofs to reduce volume and overshadowing. A language of terracing at the site edges meets the adjacent houses while building up density toward the centre of the site. A judicious articulation of the overall form creates small eddies of pause along both the public street edge and within the semi-public courtyard. Carved out recesses at ground and courtyard level provide access to units, performing double-duty as private terraces for units above.
The form and materiality are inspired by the architecture of northern climates. The shallow floor plates promote cross-ventilation and dual east/west exposure, and the compact form minimizes energy loss. Simple, efficient cladding of large-format wood shingles and metal siding reference the neighborhood’s modest mid-century housing stock while tall green planted volumes within the courtyard provide accent, colour and visual interest throughout the year.

Financial Data

While Edmonton hasn’t experienced the affordability crisis currently affecting other Canadian cities, recent city research shows that single family homes in mature neighborhoods remain out of reach for average income earners. At the same time, Edmonton’s Market Housing and Affordability Study found that three-quarters of homeowners search for a street-oriented home (single-detached, duplex, or townhome) while the remainder search for an apartment or condo. Responding to these local market conditions, the project proposes all ground-oriented units with many of the same amenities found in conventional single-family homes such as covered parking and generous outdoor spaces while also providing opportunities for community-minded living through shared indoor and outdoor amenity spaces. Rather than maximize profit at any cost, the project remains financially viable on a modest level while delivering a variety of unit types at an affordablity level geared toward middle-income earners, specifically those trying to enter the housing market or existing residents looking to downsize.

Amenities

Perched prominently on the southwest corner, 1700sf of indoor amenity space serves as the community ‘living room’ and is a focal point for neighbourhood connection, inviting casual use, resident-determined programming, and neighbourhood events. Ground-level commercial spaces along 112 Ave support modest-scale retail such as a café or fitness studio to serve the immediate residential community as well as the large healthcare precinct across the street. The four live-work units fronting 106 St provide space for professional services, creative studios or a small
wellness practice. All units have their own generously-sized private outdoor space, while the central courtyard offers a shared BBQ pit with large communal table, shared planting areas and informal seating throughout.

Intergenerational Living

The unit mix ranges from one to four bedrooms with a focus on two- and three-bedroom homes, attracting diverse populations from students and singles to empty nesters and families. While one bedroom units have tended to perform better financially for developers, they come at the expense of flexible housing options and adequate amenities that promote livability and community. These larger unit sizes create space for growing families, while smaller units exist to serve first-time buyers, students, and downsizing elders.

Accessibility

All units are ground oriented with access either directly from street or courtyard level. 50% of the units are single-story and accessed via accessible route. There are four accessible parking stalls and elevator access to shared amenity spaces.

Winter Design

The courtyard is shielded from prevailing westerly winds and can be enjoyed through all seasons. In Winter, the community living room offers indoor space to chat with neighbors or share a community meal.

Sustainability

The project features green space comparable to single-family lots, albeit in a shared and connected manner. Keeping all development above grade promotes a lighter touch and avoids significant excavation and concrete volume. The project also adopts the Passive House philosophy, featuring an enhanced building envelope, high performance windows and doors, and heat recovery in each unit. The new hospital development to the south will cast a long shadow in winter, prompting a compact building form that invites east/west sun and introduces daylight into all units.