What is Life Like in Fort McMurray?

By Tom Albrecht | Jun 14, 2017 | Fort McMurray- Buyers Advice

Fort McMurray: The Most Livable of Cities

There was a bit of snow flying. It was late and it was dark.

On September 30th, 2006, I got off the Greyhound bus, outside the Boomtown Casino.

I didn’t know anyone in town, but the same Vancouver friend who had lent me $20 and a ticket to Fort Mac had also hooked me up with his distant Newfie relatives (his mom’s sister’s cousin’s etc.. you know?)

I was given a ride, a bed, a job serving at Earl’s - I was a total stranger, but that’s Newfies for you. And that’s Fort McMurray.

In the last 11 years, there has been a lot of change for me personally, so it’s hard to know how much the town has changed too. When I first arrived, with my treasured $20 bill, I was only here for 6 months as a temporary worker, to save money for traveling. Others I knew at the time spent their first few nights in cars in the Walmart parking lot.

I moved house 12 times in the first 6 years. I worked at The Keg, delivered toilets and renovated a home in Thickwood. Who knew, many of these skills would come in handy later?!

So I’ve lived all over town: In basement suites, rooms, rented homes, downtown apartments, even a commercial building in Gregoire. More lately, we’ve enjoyed properties of our own.

The spirit of Fort McMurray has changed. It’s grown up a lot. Maybe not. Maybe the youth is just as youthful and we’re just not part of it! It’s hard to say. But that’s for another post.

Today I thought is about Fort McMurray, how it continues to change (improve) and where to live. So, here are MY...



Favorite Areas of Fort McMurray

    1. Abasand was a place I was happy. It’s a hard-working place. The coffee at The Esso is hard to beat. I lived up in Hangingstone Apartments, and in a couple of patio homes. It was always peaceful walking across the fields there, and spending time walking the trails with someone’s dog. I’d walk downtown sometimes in -30something to test my metal. I was young. God bless Abasand.
    2. Dickinsfield. Those were early days. A foreigner (British), I fell in love with Minute Maid grapefruit juice while I waited for the municipal bus (before it was the Woosh). The Jaguar Lounge was always fun - the smoking area was basically the Shell gas station. Since then as a professional, I’ve learnt about the quality of the schools, the sought-after streets (Torrie, Becker etc.)
    3. Wood Buffalo. Those were peaceful days: Watching the beavers from the deck, walking to the Thickwood Golf Club. Expensive days though! My room was $1,500 a month. Man, rents have come down and times have changed.
    4. Timberlea
    5. Eagle Ridge
    6. Stonecreek

Timberlea, Eagle Ridge, Stonecreek

It’s wild when I think back to 2006 and imagine these areas at the time. Eagle Ridge was a few holes in the ground. Stonecreek hadn’t been dreamt up yet. And Timberlea was mainly just a ton of homes, either brand new, or from the 1980’s.

What was there to do?

  • Boston Pizza
  • Mac’s Convenience Store
  • Liquor Depot

…that was pretty much it. I always think: The owners of those stores must have done well!!

Fast forward to today, and these three areas of town really represent a city within a city. The Stoney Creek development has had a huge impact on the variety of amenities available in this part of town. The introduction of Tim Horton’s and Starbucks have been life changing events for residents, but that’s just coffee. It’s hard to count the number of stores today, and more is coming. There are tons of new schools. Seven?

proposed Eagle Ridge Retail Centre Artist's impression of the proposed Eagle Ridge Retail Centre

The big news recently, was that the Eagle Ridge developer, Centron, has decided to proceed with their large retail development in Eagle Ridge. People who own homes in the area must be excited that by fall 2018, they will not only be within walking distance to a state-of-the-art Landmark Cinema, but also a variety of shops, restaurants etc.

Not only is this part of town full of life’s conveniences, but the newer neighbourhoods are increasingly walkable (a challenge Fort McMurray has seemingly always struggled with), and they are becoming wonderful places to live. We present the “walk-score” on every MLS® listing on our website which gives each home a score out of 100 for how walkable it is. It’s crazy to see the scores going up!

[Read my post about our The A-Team’s exceptional online search tools]

The Future

We don’t think it’s prudent to expecting another boom. But there is good news…

ymm real estate future


As commercial and retail rents continue to fall, I expect we will see an explosion of “things to do” stores in Fort McMurray. For example, a friend of ours is opening an “escape room”, and another has recently opened Color Me Mine. I’m hoping that someone will open up an outdoor adventure store that rents kayaks & canoes, and organizes reasonably priced trips into the wild (that idea is a freebee by the way). There must be plenty of people like me who didn’t grow up in the woods, but craves more time out in them without being eaten by beasts!

I expect a lot of this awesomeness will appear Downtown Fort McMurray.

Where to Buy a Home in Fort McMurray
The town keeps getting better and better, but of course it all depends on what you care about. If you are thinking of buying your first home, or selling and moving to a different neighbourhood, or into a home that fits your lifestyle better, we have three specialist Buyer’s Agents who will meet with you at our RE/MAX® Fort McMurray office, and help you find exactly what you want.

How else does The A-Team REALLY HELP YOU when buying? Find out here

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Tom Albrecht founded The A-Team with his wife, Breanna. He holds a Masters in Economics for Developing Countries from The University of Oxford. Tom is licensed at RE/MAX First, and is a specialist buyer's agent in Alberta - specifically, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks & Chestermere. He was rated #1 Calgary agent in 2022 & 2023 by rate-my-agent.com