April 13, 2019 7:33 pm

Calgary city councillor disappointed with continued delays in Eau Claire development

WATCH: The city hosted an open house on Saturday to find input on a makeover of the Eau Claire area in Calgary. Residents got an update on where flood mitigation work stands and what the city has planned for public areas. But as Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the city councillor that represents the area says she's disappointed that private development of the land continues to be delayed.

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The 2013 floods filled Buff Smith’s Sunnyside basement with water. Like many others in her neighbourhood, she wants to know what’s being done to stop that from happening again.

“Especially as we get closer to June, I have to say my whole neighbourhood gets paranoid,” Smith said.

Smith attended an open house hosted by the city on Saturday at the Eau Claire Market.

Officials were on hand to provide updates on flood mitigation work being done in the area and to explain plans the city has for a redesign of Eau Claire.

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A concrete flood wall has been constructed through much of Eau Claire and more barriers will be built next year, ending at the Reconciliation Bridge by 2022. A permanent flood barrier is in the works for Sunnyside, but construction isn’t expected to start until next year.

“All the processes do take some time but we are working as quickly as we can to make sure that flood mitigation is in place as quickly as we can get it,” said Deighen Blakely, river engineering team lead with the City of Calgary.

The city is now looking for input as it redesigns Eau Claire, working on everything from flood mitigation projects to a makeover of the plaza. The hope is that redesigning Eau Claire will help create great spaces to live, work, play and shop in the area.

READ MORE: Eau Claire makeover: public input sought by city

Harvard Developments Inc. bought the Eau Claire Market land in 2007. Its redevelopment was slated for the following year, but according to the company, plans were shelved because of the global recession.

In 2016, Harvard executives said the timing was ideal for the redevelopment of Eau Claire. In 2017, Calgary city council approved a plan that included several towers, condos and a hotel.

Still, there no signs of construction.

“Eau Claire Market wasn’t as successful as originally planned,” said Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell. “So the sale of the land was to spur redevelopment, and we’ve seen several booms and bust [cycles] since then and no redevelopment. We thought with this new plan, we [would] see something move forward. And it’s been a disappointment that there continues to be delays.”

Farrell said no construction means the city is not collecting the kind of property taxes it could be. She wants to see the developer go ahead with more residential units.

“The last thing we want to do is rezone residential to office,” Farrell said. “We want the opposite. We want to see office conversions into residential. That’s what builds a more resilient downtown. Eau Claire still doesn’t have the density to serve a grocery store.”

READ MORE: Drivers, cyclists could be impacted by proposed changes to Calgary transportation bylaws

Farrell understands that Harvard Developments may want to see the final plans for the Green Line LRT Eau Claire Station before building on the east side of their property but said there’s nothing stopping construction from happening on the rest of the site.

Harvard owns the Eau Claire Market building and the 2.95-hectare site that it sits on.

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