How do you stay desirable in spite of advancing years? Take a lesson from Westmount, a neighbourhood that’s retained its allure long after its 1910 boundaries were established and its name was appropriated from Montreal’s upscale residential area. Westmount’s many historic homes are a realtor’s proof of the adage: Youth and beauty fade, character endures forever.
“It’s modern, but still a beautiful older neighbourhood, mature but not rundown,”says Matthew Laycraft, the president of the community league.
When the mile-square homestead of early Edmonton settler Malcolm Groat was annexed by the city and put on the developer market a century ago, ads touted the area as “… the most desirable [and] cheapest property in the city.” While the Groat Estates portion was marketed to the well-established and wealthy, Westmount targeted people early in their careers – the young professionals of yesteryear.
Fast forward a century and Westmount still draws the same demographic: 36 per cent are between 20 and 39, while the population of children is six per cent below Edmonton’s mean.
Prices may no longer be the cheapest in the city, but Westmount hasn’t lost its charm, with some homes protected by proponents such as the Edmonton Historical Board.
In the 1980s, a nine-block gem, where the majority of homes were built between 1912 and 1925, was declared the Westmount Architectural Heritage Area. Despite the pressure for redevelopment in the 1970s and early 1980s, many residents refused to sell, choosing instead to repair and renovate their Craftsman and Four Square style homes. Here, authentic architectural features such as eyebrow dormers and inviting wrap around verandas still reign supreme.
Though bordered by the heavily trafficked arteries of 111th Avenue, Stony Plain and Groat Roads, Westmount takes life at a slower pace. The necessities, as well as the finer things in life, are a stroll away on 124th Street, a revitalized stretch that aims to be the new Whyte Avenue with hip boutiques, specialty shops, independent restaurants and the truest indicator of a trendy neighbourhood, a doggie bakery.
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“Westmount’s as downtown as you can get without going totally urban,” says Laycraft. “It’s trendy, but not overly so. There’s a small-town feel that’s part of its charm.”