Raising Baby in the ICE District: 3 Reasons To Love It and 3 To Loathe It

Do you associate ideal family living with the new ICE District in Edmonton?

While most don’t, there are many families living comfortably in the core, including mine.

We’re the Joneses. My husband, toddler and I live in the heart of downtown, two blocks away from Rogers Place and the developing entertainment hub that’s attracting attention from all over the world. We’re raising baby in a one bedroom loft. But, no need to keep up with the Joneses. Downtown family life isn’t always ideal.

The vision for our downtown community focuses on shopping, movies, dining, hockey, concerts, bustling streets and residences for working professionals. The ICE District will have “sophisticated living and AAA office space, all in one location.” (Ice District Properties) The end goal is to grow the area into a “modern metropolis” with something for everyone in Edmonton, but from what I read, it doesn’t necessarily invite young families to flock in. It’s all about being lively, a gathering place — an entertainment destination.

Will we stay downtown? We love it, but we also loathe it, depending on the day.

There are benefits to living in the core — convenience, simplicity and community. But flip the coin, and there are downsides — noise, nature and parking.

Our typical stroll down 104th. Photo credit: Mike Isaak Photography.

Why I Love It

One | Convenience

Living central is wonderful for a young family. Before baby, my work was a ten minute walk away. My husband frequently rides his bike to work in the summer. Now, as a mom, I can access the mall, the library, the grocery store, the coffee shop and Churchill Square all on foot. Even services like our doctor, chiropractor, dentist and hairstylists are a short walk away. It’s a dream to live next door to the ICE District. We can call our babysitter and quickly walk to the movie theatre, pub, a restaurant, or Rogers Place for a concert or hockey game, never worrying about where to park or whose turn it is to be the designated driver. Walkable design is where it’s at.

Two | Simplicity

We loved living small, centrally and simply before we had our son. Once he arrived, we loved it more than ever. He was even born in our downtown loft, an unplanned home birth. Our loft provides 350 square feet for each of us — pretty easy to organize and clean. Life as a new mom was (mostly) free of clutter, aside from going through mountains of baby clothes. We only kept one exersaucer, bouncy chair or swing at a time. I read this article from Cup of Jo and was inspired to move furniture to make our loft work better. Our master bedroom converted easily into Alex’s room, and our king bed moved upstairs. We attempt to live simply in our smaller space, with less stuff, which reduces our stress.

Three | Community

Downtown sometimes feels like a small town. Our building is a mix of apartments and lofts, where professionals, students and retirees reside. In 2007, our loft became my now-husbands bachelor pad. I moved from Calgary to Edmonton in 2013. We had our little one in 2015. Since then, we’ve frequently run into our neighbours while coming and going. They’ve gotten to know Alex. I think they love having him there — he makes them smile. (We shared our story with the Child-Friendly Housing Coalition of Alberta.) If I ever need chili powder, a can of soup, hot chocolate mix or want to share fresh muffins, I take a short walk down the hall! I don’t even have to go outside.

Strolling by Mercer. Photo: Mike Isaak Photography

Why I Loathe It

One | Noise

Living downtown, especially so close to the new arena and the university, can be annoyingly loud at times. Most of the time, it is quiet and serene. But on a Friday or Saturday, university students are out and partying until the early hours and my geriatric shussssh-ing only attracts more attention. Each year, Grant MacEwan hosts celebrations for New Student Orientation and the Animethon takes over the front lawn, too. On any given night, drunken banter drifts up towards our third-level suite. Vehicles and motorbikes rev their engines regularly, and loudly, outside our window. Since Rogers Place opened, event nights are sure to bring loud, drunken laughing outside. Our only way to keep Alex sleeping is with a white noise machine.


Another downside — no backyard. I am jealous of my friends that have a fenced, green backyard in the summer for their kids to use freely. For Alex to play outside this year, I had to walk him fifteen minutes to Kitchener Park in Oliver. That was a wonderful playground for him to climb on; it has rubber ground, a splash park and an awesome, brand-new play structure. Yet, I longed for an easy-to-access backyard closer to us. Luckily, construction has started on Alex Decouteau Park, just a block away from us. It should be finished next Spring. Yahoo!

Three | Parking

Parking is a hot topic for downtown dwellers, especially with the new arena. While many urban families have one vehicle, which is the most economical thing to do, some still have two out of necessity. Having two cars is typical of most city families. (Not all, but many) Out-of-town visitors have to pay to park their vehicles overnight. Our friends and family would probably visit more if parking were easier, and if we had more space for them to sleep over. The National Post just wrote an article about how arena planning failed to provide ample parking for everyone. Rogers Place has underground parking for VIP only.

My grumpy downtown toddler! Photo: Mike Isaak Photography.

Despite it’s downfalls, downtown living is a lot of fun. Being so close to all the action makes all the noise, lack of green space, and parking limitations worth it.

That being said… the Joneses may still decide to move. We aren’t sure how long we’ll last, especially if our family of three decides to grow one day. Until then, downtown we stay.

Photo: Mike Isaak Photography.

Would you move your family closer to the ICE District? 

Share with me why you think or don’t think it’s ideal to live in the core with a family. 

One comment

  1. While parking may be an issue for now, it seems like with the new towers going up around the arena, they are addressing some of the needs for more parking. It will take a while, but I was definitely surprised they didn’t have a better plan in place. Would you believe I’ve just taken the LRT for the first time this year going to Rogers Place!?

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