Garry Greanya and Susan Cherewyk’s house is just two months old but it’s located in St. Albert’s oldest neighbourhood and the couple sees it as a way to bridge the old with the new.
It’s just one of several new infill homes that Greanya, owner of Garry Builders constructed and lived in since 1989 when he built his first home in Old Braeside.
“I have a passion for old neighbourhoods,” he said.
Two years ago Greanya and Cherewyk purchased the Mission property, on the corner of St. Vital Avenue and Maple Drive. The old 900-square-foot house was built circa 1960. It was rented for many years but was vacant for a year and had fallen into disrepair. It was listed for sale at $269,000 and the relatively low purchase price, plus the fact that it needed substantial repairs, meant it was feasible for Greanya to take it down.
“The old house was not structurally sound,” he said.
The home had black mould in the cinder-block basement and Greanya could not even use the old foundation to build the dream home he and Cherewyk had planned.
Cherewyk, a mortgage broker, stressed that not every old home is suitable for such a rebuild, especially if the property was well cared for and well loved.
“The hard part is finding a lot that’s priced low enough to make it affordable. But if a house has good bones and is well maintained, it’s not worth it to rip it down,” she said, adding that in such a case, a renovation might be a better option.
Greanya and Cherewyk’s new 2,000 square foot home doubled the footprint of the original house.
They built a bungalow with few stairs for their own personal comfort but also because a house on one level would blend in better with the old neighbourhood.
“The City of St. Albert requires you to send a letter to your neighbours explaining the new construction. We also went and talked to each neighbour,” said Greanya.
The bungalow is a little higher than the older one, but Greanya said that his neighbours don’t seem to mind.
“Our neighbour said that our higher roof means we block the noise from St. Vital Avenue. Now he doesn’t hear the noise as much,” Greanya said, adding that it’s important to get the neighbours onside for such a project.
“I think it’s important to the neighbours to know it’s not a flip project. They want to know their neighbours are going to be there for a while. They don’t want a project that’s money driven. They want people to stay,” he said.
Though the property was purchased two years ago, the couple didn’t begin work on their new home for a time because they were away on a holiday and Greanya had other construction projects on the go.
Finally last October the old house was ripped down. Though people had lived there for six decades, it took just half a day for heavy machinery to dismantle it. The rubble filled five 30-yard garbage bins.
Actual construction of the new house didn’t begin until the spring of this year and the couple moved into it in June.
“It really is our dream home and we plan to live here for many years,” said Cherewyk.
Some of her dream requests included a huge kitchen with enough room to cook and entertain their large combined family. There is a six-burner gas stove and a granite-slab kitchen counter that serves as both a desk and counter. There are two big tables with one in the dining room and a second one in the adjacent sunroom.
“The sunroom is a three-season room and it’s a great place for the grandchildren to play,” Cherewyk said.
She readily agreed that all the same amenities could have been built into any new home in any new subdivision but to her mind the comfort of an established neighbourhood is best.
“In a new subdivision we wouldn’t have had these big beautiful trees. In summer I can see green from every window in the house and in the spring there is the soapbox derby (on the hill on St. Vital Avenue). We are so central from here we can walk to the library. We walk to Dairy Queen,” she said.
Greanya agreed, adding that though his house is large and new, it’s just one of several new homes in the area and that desire for newness is a contagious thing.
“The thing I love about older neighbourhoods is every house looks different. As we went to each neighbour and told them what we were doing, suddenly they were saying things like, ‘you know it would be nice to renovate.’ And that’s been happening,” Greanya said.
“Suddenly the neighbourhood goes wild and there’s lots of building. Building an infill house rejuvenates the area and makes it new again. It’s a way for neighbourhoods to grow.”