Nature anchors Starling at Big Lake

By Ann Sutherland, Edmonton Journal How can a community development have a low environmental impact without sacrificing the amenities residents expect? That’s the question Rohit Land Developers faced when it acquired land in the city’s northwest near Big Lake. Their project, Starling at Big Lake, located southwest of 199th Street and 137th Avenue, is set among the rolling hills of former farmland. To the west is the sprawling freshwater eco-system of Big Lake. Within Starling itself are natural wetlands and ponds. The challenge, according to Russel Dauk, Rohit’s vice-president of land development, was to find a balance between urban living and preserving sensitive natural areas. “Big Lake is a major migratory route and nesting area for birds,” he says. “We’ve implemented a number of green initiatives and features to ensure this is a low impact development.” For example, bioswales ensure that silt and pollutants are removed from stormwater before it flows back into Big Lake. Rohit is also involved in the Dark Skies initiative. “We’ve installed LED street lights so there is no wasted light,” explains Dauk. “It provides a darker sky and less disturbance for the many birds that call the area home. Not only that, but it’s energy efficient, and it allows you to live in the city but still see the stars and Northern Lights.” Rohit is also retaining wetlands and a natural pond. Running through the centre of Starling is a ravine with stormwater ponds on either side. This mass of green space will soon have pedestrian walkways with links to Horseshoe Lake to the southwest and Big Lake to the west. “There’s so much green space,” says Dauk. “The parks and trails are being developed now, so by the time you move in it will almost be complete. You won’t be waiting a year or two.” The community is laid out so that the majority of homes are no more than 200 metres away from green space. The neighbourhood is made up of small pods or clusters of about 100 homes. The idea behind creating these sub-communities is to help reduce through-traffic and to encourage a stronger sense of community. Starling offers a broad spectrum of multi- and single-family homes, for everyone from first-time buyers to those looking to build their custom dream home. Rohit is not only the developer but also a homebuilder. Their innovative duplex product, Elements of Starling, has been a big hit. “Many of the duplexes are designed with front-drive and rear-drive access, so it looks like one single-family home,” says Dauk. “It’s a seamless integration of some of the higher density requirements.” The duplexes start in the $320,000s, while single-family homes start in the low $400,000s. Winner of the award for best show home parade at the recent CHBA Edmonton housing awards, Starling has a select group of builders that includes Cameron Homes, Celebration Homes, Green Living Homes and Kirkland Master Builder, as well as Rohit Communities. The classic architectural theme has one unifying element — a simple white trim found on all homes and entry features. “Someone who drives through the neighbourhood wouldn’t be able to pinpoint what ties everything together,” says Dauk. “It’s amazing how a simple thing like white trim can pull it all together.”
While Starling’s natural setting is seen as an escape from the city, amenities remain near. The neighbourhood is within Edmonton city boundary, but residents are actually closer to St. Albert – only five minutes to the city’s downtown, and Hole’s Enjoy Centre is even closer. With Anthony Henday Drive and the Yellowhead running right by Starling, access to any area of Edmonton is relatively quick. Closer to home, a small commercial area is in the works, and a major commercial centre with grocery stores, banks and a transit hub along Winterburn Road (215th Street) and the Yellowhead is scheduled for 2016. On April 20, Starling will be going to the dogs with its spring event, the Puppy Parade, from noon to 5 p.m. Everyone is invited to come out and enjoy a fun afternoon. “We’ve partnered with the Humane Animal Rescue Team, so there will be adoptable dogs on-site,” says Dauk. “We’ll have food and entertainment. Edmonton’s famous skateboarding bulldog, Buttercup, will be performing on the hour. And of course the show homes will be open so you can take a tour.” Ann Sutherland is a regular contributor to the Homes section. This article appears as the result of a commercial arrangement with Rohit Land Developers. It did not review or approve this story.
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