Since the fall of 2018, the City of Calgary has been in the process of reimagining what the future of Stephen Avenue holds. The Avenue has played a variety of roles and functions over the years and remains a crucial part of our city’s overall identity and remains an essential part of the well-being of Calgarians’ as well as the businesses that call downtown Calgary home.
As City Administration has undertaken their engagement, studies, and has rolled out preliminary plans for the Revitalization Project (the Project), members of the BOMA Calgary Government Affairs Committee have been and will remain involved in ensuring your voice is heard as decisions are made. In December, we sent a letter to City Hall which highlighted the concerns of our industry. In this post, we will highlight what the Project has entailed so far, what our response has been, and next steps.
The story so far
In the fall of 2018, City Administration completed the initial engagement for the Project. This was followed by the hiring of a multi-disciplinary consulting team in the summer of 2019. At the same time, the City started their surveying process and their initial stakeholder engagement. The following fall, the insights brought forward by the consultant team were made public as the City’s project team moved to gathering feedback from Calgarians on the results.
All of this came to a head in the fall of 2020 when a concept design and public realm study was reported to stakeholders and the public in general. The current project plan looks to divide the Avenue between the Central Public Library and Millennium Park intro three distinct areas with distinct features:
- The Commons – a hub for arts, culture and civic organizations with plans for parks and plazas with a focus on special events on the east end.
- The Core – the middle portion of the avenue will focus on retail and hospitality activity. This segment is also expected to house the highest concentration of office workers along Stephen Avenue.
- The Village – the western most segment will focus on redevelopment to turn underused lands to create a new mixed-use neighbourhood.
The current plans aspire to turn Stephen Avenue into the City’s main connector of arts, culture, and commerce while leaving the door open for experimentation and innovation. Details on what is planned and the final report from the consultant can be found here.
The current plan has identified several areas where enhancements and improvements could be made and while we generally agree with many of the concepts presented, there are two areas where we would like to see enhanced focus and emphasis.
First, there must be significant residency in the immediate vicinity of Stephen Avenue. While there is a fairly dense concentration of residences west of 6th Street SW along the Avenue, this hasn’t always translated into meaningful pedestrian non-destination activity after normal business hours in the areas further east of 6th Street SW down to City Hall. We believe that adding a critical mass of residences within, or immediately adjacent to the project area would stimulate street level activity and facilitate an environment that would motivate other Calgarians to proactively visit the area.
Second is the actual and perceived problems of personal safety resulting from vulnerable populations and social disorder. We believe that one of the key features in activating the Avenue will be the perception of personal safety. While we are pleased to hear that the revitalization plan speaks to improvements in this realm, we are interested in understanding what future improvements are being planned for the Avenue that will address public safety concerns. These concerns are a deterrent to attracting visitors and changing the current demographic. Property Owners and Managers continue to share the risk and responsibility for providing security resources to help manage these concerns. We support and believe that a comprehensive plan to improve security will be an essential factor in the successful transformation of Stephen Avenue.
BOMA Calgary and our members are also engaged with social organizations working with vulnerable populations downtown and in the Beltline. We would be pleased to support the City’s work through these collaborations. A downtown that is safe for all visitors goes hand in glove with providing the vulnerable populations who call the area home with support and public services.
Between now and 2022, the Project will be entering its experimentation phase, in this time it is expected that City Hall will be testing ideas and pilots that include governance concepts, programming, temporary street closures, short-term intersection improvements and economic development concepts.
During budget deliberations in November 2022, the Project will be eligible for capital funding at which time we will have further insights into the investments the City is willing to make on the Project. Construction for the project is expected to begin shortly after this in 2023.
For further details on the project timelines visit the City’s information page.
BOMA Calgary is committed to remaining engaged and representing the voice of our members as the project moves ahead. Many of our members stand to be greatly impacted by changes made to Stephen Avenue. Going forward, we will continue to represent your voice at City Hall emphasizing your concerns and kudos to administration until the Project is complete.