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A nice place to visit... ...and live

Bridgeland Avenue show home makes Parade of Homes history

Drive through Bridgeland Forest these days, and you might notice a steady stream of people flowing in and out of 90 Bridgeland Ave.

The reason? It may well be the first visitable show home ever entered in a Parade of Homes competition.

"We're very proud of it," says Garth Steek, sales manager for Greentree Homes, builder of the 1,460-square-foot bungalow. "It's a home that has been built to recognize a change in customer demographics. Not only are there young families looking for an affordable three-bedroom bungalow, but there are also seniors from the boomer generation looking for a user-friendly place to live."

Sandra Finch, Greentree's marketing representative for 90 Bridgeland, says the response to the home has been strong.

"I would estimate we had over 250 people go through the home this past weekend," she says. "In particular, the response was very positive from people whose lifestyles are changing -- boomers getting on in age, or people who have relatives with physical challenges who might want to come to visit. This home has been laid out so it's very easy to negotiate throughout."

Now, to say a home is visitable doesn't mean it's 100 per cent wheelchair accessible for handicapped people. Saying a home is visitable means that it has been outfitted with a number of features that make it much easier to gain access to and move around in than your standard home.

Features included in The Tudor include an enlarged 23-foot by 24-foot garage (which can accommodate vehicles with lifts for wheelchairs), an extra-wide hallway leading to the garage, a wider aisleway in the kitchen (between the island and counter on the other side), extra-wide doorways and a five-foot turning radius in the main bathroom. There's also a low step-over shower in the master bedroom's ensuite.

"The idea behind visitable homes is that they can provide independent access for everyone including people with limited mobility or those with disabilities," Steek says. "This type of design can also be beneficial to families with small children; for example, strollers can roll right up and through doorways without any problems. The bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens are wheelchair-accessible, and the design enables ease of movement because there aren't narrow doors and steps to contend with."

According to Finch, this version of The Tudor is a good choice for those looking to downsize to a home that offers a more user-friendly lifestyle -- and that can be adapted to changing needs.

"It's just a great home for empty-nesters who may now be, say, in their mid-50s, with some minor physical challenges. We can work with customers to look at their present lifestyle needs, and where those needs might be going in the next five to 10 years. Things like grab bars can be added in hallways in the future, because the home has been laid out to accommodate them," she says.

As far as the home's exterior is concerned, the key visitable feature there is a wheelchair ramp found at the rear, adjacent to the garage. Should someone be in a wheelchair, access to the home is made easy by negotiating the ramp up to a side-deck door that provides a perfectly flat entry point.

"For the time being, that's where wheelchair access (in Bridgeland Forest) has to come from due to builders' guidelines," adds Finch. "It's a perfect design if you want your parents to move in to take care of them -- they can still get inside and get around easily, and yet there's still enough room for an active family to do what they need to do."

Steek says that other special features are also readily available, as well.

"We can also put in an elevator (for basement access) if need be; the design is only limited by your imagination. As a builder, we're adaptable to meeting the special needs of our customers. Best of all, this is a design that's as affordable as it is accessible. It's also a PowerSmart gold home that offers a huge basement for future development," he says. "We're very pleased to be able to offer this option to the public."

As someone who has long specialized in selling visitable and accessible homes, Finch is excited that the general public can now see what a visitable home actually has to offer.

"Hopefully, more builders will recognize these needs in the future," she says. "This home not only is very visitable, but has lots of wow and pizzazz -- maple cabinets and hardwoods, ceramic tile and big, low windows to let in lots of light. It proves that a home can not only be visitable, but it can look great, too."

lewys@mts.net