My husband Jordan and I moved into our downtown Edmonton apartment in January 2010. It was the same month that saw the grand opening of the rebuilt Art Gallery of Alberta – its sleek, light-catching curves an architectural signal that downtown revitalization was well under way. We loved our 725-square-foot home with its stunning river valley view and location two-and-a-half blocks from an LRT station. We loved walking everywhere. We walked to work, to the grocery store, to trendy cafés, pubs and restaurants.

Better than all of that was the sense of community we experienced in our high rise. One Christmas, we decided to connect with our neighbours by hosting a Floor 5 holiday party. It didn’t totally flop so we invited everyone in our building to a Canada Day barbecue six months later. The barbecue led to a Facebook group, which led to monthly potlucks, a book club, a charity yard sale and an 18-floor network of social connections with some of our best friends just an elevator ride away.

For us, the party ended four years later when we decided not to renew our lease because we lived in an adults-only building and planned to start a family. Pregnancy equalled eviction and we wanted to leave on our own terms. We learned days after our final rent cheque cleared that we were expecting our first child.

We were sad to leave our building, which had become a tight-knit neighbourhood within a neighbourhood. Determined to stay central, we looked at property listings in several mature neighbourhoods. But after one late-night walk through the heart of downtown Edmonton, we resolved that we would not be pushed out of our community simply for bringing a child into it and we narrowed our search to homes within walking distance of the downtown core.

Against the odds, we found a house that suited our needs on a quiet and beautifully landscaped street in Boyle, a hidden gem in Edmonton’s gritty downtown east.

We love our home with its proximity to stunning river valley views and location two-and-a-half blocks from a future LRT station. We love walking everywhere. We walk to work, to festivals, to the library, to trendy cafés, pubs and restaurants. Our daughters are regulars at the Art Gallery of Alberta, where children are celebrated, not dismissed as a potential liability.

The bustle of downtown life is not for every family. Some days I look out my front window and wish I could see more of the sky. But every day I am grateful – grateful for the new neighbours I have come to know, who are working hard to help our downtown reach its full potential; grateful for the privilege of using my own two feet as my primary mode of transportation, even with two children in tow. I’m grateful that on any given day I can buckle my daughters into their stroller and walk them to the art gallery, the library, the City Hall wading pool, and soon the Royal Alberta Museum. Most of all, I’m grateful for the extra hour a day we spend together as a family by cutting the rush-hour commute out of our routine.

Finding family-friendly housing downtown has greatly enhanced our quality of life. We only wish more local parents and their children could experience the same benefits. So for the sake of cleaner air, healthier communities, and extra bedtime stories, please add your voice to the fight against age discrimination in housing.

Joelle Reiniger is a Boyle Street resident, parent and community organizer.

 

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