'Now we can all be in the kitchen together cooking'

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It’s been almost three years since Henco and Marche Cronje sold everything and jumped on a plane to Canada from South Africa. They arrived in Calgary with their two adult children, who at the time were aged 17 and 20, and their three fur-babies — Smudge, Shadow and Noekie — with only four suitcases between them all.

“It was a huge step coming here. We’d never been to Canada before, so we really didn’t know what to expect,” says Marche.

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Henco, a software engineer, had been recruited by a technology company.

“It was a really good opportunity for us,” says Henco, noting that the family didn’t even think twice about accepting the offer.

“We’d been in our home in South Africa for 26 years, and we saw it as an opportunity to get rid of all of our junk,” he says with a laugh.

The couple initially rented a bungalow by the river in Cochrane’s West Valley community. Avid runners, bikers, swimmers and hikers, they immediately fell in love with Cochrane’s lifestyle.

“We love the nature, the river, the snow and everything that comes with that, as well as the town feeling,” says Marche, who works in early childhood education. The couple also enjoys the accessibility. Both of them work downtown; Henco rides his bike and Marche walks.

“It’s a fantastic way to live,” she says.

After two years, the family applied for permanent Canadian residency and that spurred on a search for a more permanent home, one that they owned.

“It’s always good to put your money into your own investment, instead of paying for someone else’s,” says Henco.

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They began looking six months after they applied for residency in June of 2023, knowing that they wanted to stay in Cochrane.

“We were really open for anything — a new build or a resale home. But location was very important; we wanted to be close to the river and to the sports recreation centre,” says Marche, noting that they also didn’t want to lose the ability to walk and cycle to work.

They hired a real estate agent and looked at a few resale homes, but quickly ascertained that by the time they did renovations on them to update them, they would be moving beyond their budget.

That led them to Greystone, the new 150-acre urban riverside community situated on the former Burnco gravel pit, located within a short walk of downtown Cochrane.    

Greystone will pivot around a central amenity pond with walking paths down to the river, as well as a 10-acre Central Park boasting 20 pickleball courts, two baseball diamonds and a basketball court. Jefferson Plaza, a memorial tribute space to Jeff Burns — the former president of Burnswest Properties Ltd., the developer behind the community, who died in 2021 — overlooks the pond, as does Ocgrow Place, a retail and commercial space brimming with restaurants, cafes and exciting retail. The Co-op grocery store, touted to be the largest in Western Canada with a standalone gas bar and liquor store, wraps around to the south.

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They toured through a few duplex-style show homes and immediately resonated with The Sydney, a 1,376-square-foot, two-storey, three-bedroom, 2½-bathroom laned duplex design by Douglas Homes, a multi-award-winning Calgary-based builder. The Sydney was a finalist in the best new home duplex category $350,000 to $375,000 in the 2023 BILD Alberta Awards.

The home has an old-world feel with a charming full-length front veranda. The family, although they moved in during a snow storm in February of this year, already enjoys sitting out and soaking up the sunshine.

“With the cats, we also really needed a home with a backyard and Douglas Homes had this big, comfortable backyard. Plus, the open-concept design is just beautiful,” says Marche, who enjoys cooking and baking.

“The bungalow we rented didn’t have a practical kitchen. There was no counter space — it was a nightmare. So coming into this place, it’s got all of this counter space and cupboards and a huge island. It’s fantastic. Now we can all be in the kitchen together cooking and not be in each other’s way,” she says.

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Their daughter, who is now 23 and starting a teaching job, has settled in nicely to one of the secondary bedrooms and as their son has returned to South Africa, the third bedroom will become a guest room/office space for Henco, who occasionally works from home. The upstairs also offers an alternate workspace — a large built-in desk at the top of the stairs is both functional and beautiful.

The couple also liked the fact that all of the finishes were high end — quartz countertops, wide-planked engineered hardwood on the main floor, nine-foot ceilings and a Napoleon electric fireplace in the great room and that every square inch of the home was well thought-out with “great use of space.”

“The only thing that we did was upgrade the appliances and add a double car garage to the back — Douglas Homes will be building it this summer,” says Henco.

The unfinished 700-sq.-ft. lower level has one egress window and plumbing roughed-in. Finishing it will be a future project for Henco, who is looking forward to building the space, while Marche, an avid gardener, is chomping at the bit to begin planting and designing their garden.

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Because Douglas Homes is a spec home builder — houses are already under construction when the papers are signed — the move-in time is typically a lot shorter than a pre-sale home, says Derk Patton, Douglas Homes’ Greystone area sales manager.

For the Cronjes, who purchased when their home was at the framing stage, the move-in timing was quick, less than six months.

All in all, the couple is thrilled with the build process and their new home.

“It all went very smoothly and the timing for possession was spot on,” says Henco.


HOME DESIGN: The Sydney, a 1,376-sq.-ft., two-storey, three-bedroom, 2½-bathroom rear-laned, duplex-style home with a full-length old-world front veranda.

BUILDER: Douglas Homes.

COMMUNITY: Greystone of Cochrane, in Cochrane.

DEVELOPER: Burnswest Properties Ltd.

PRICE: The Sydney in Greystone starts at $499,900 including lot and GST.

SHOW HOME: The show home is located at 500 River Ave., Cochrane, and is open Monday through Thursday from 2 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from noon to 5 p.m.

INFORMATION: douglashomes.net

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