Stephen Avenue makeover: learn more at virtual open house Tuesday night

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Stephen Avenue makeover: virtual open house held to discuss future of Calgary street
WATCH ABOVE: The City of Calgary hosted a virtual open house on Tuesday evening to get feedback on the future of Stephen Avenue. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, planners say it's more important than ever that the downtown avenue is healthy and thriving to help attract people to the core. – Oct 21, 2020

The City of Calgary is hosting a virtual open house on Tuesday evening to update citizens on the redesign of Stephen Avenue.

The pedestrian walkway is arguably Calgary’s most iconic street, featuring stores, restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs.

The city announced last spring that it was working with the Calgary Downtown Association to revamp Stephen Avenue between City Hall and the Mewata Armoury.

READ MORE: Stephen Avenue makeover to create a ’21st-century experience’: City of Calgary

Tuesday’s presentation serves as a chance for the city to share the results of a public realm study.

“We’ve spent the past two years meeting with business and property owners, gathering feedback from Calgarians, and surveying how they use Stephen Avenue during different times of the year,” the city said.

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“This engagement has guided the development of the public realm study, focusing on urban design, economics, planning policy and mobility.”

According to planning and development public realm lead Michael Magnan, revitalizing Stephen Avenue is essential in attracting more people to the “commercial, retail and entertainment hub [of] downtown.”

“It is our showcase for tourists and visitors,” he said.

Read more: Questions about the Stephen Avenue makeover? Open houses held this week

Magnan said the downtown vacancy rate has been a challenge for business owners, adding that part of the redesign will look at making the street a place people will want to flock to no matter the time of day, or day of the week.

“One of the things we are looking at is, how do we diversify the experience a little bit so it’s a little less about the 9-to-5 corporate culture and more about a place you might want to go on evenings and on the weekends as well as during weekdays,” he said.

He added many families with children are spending time at Olympic Plaza, on the Macleod Trail end of Stephen Avenue, but not making their way down the avenue to take in the shops, restaurants and culture. He’s hoping the team can make the avenue more kid-friendly.

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“We are thinking about extending the pedestrian portion maybe one block more to 4 Street,” he said.

“And after that, really, what we want to do is make a nice shared space that is still more of a conventional road — it wouldn’t be a pedestrian mall per se, there would be wider sidewalks, permanent infrastructure for bike lanes, and figure out some of the parking issues that we know about.”

Magnan said there is no capital funding for the work, but city council has given the team $300,000 to do temporary improvements, which will incorporate some of the ideas that come out of the public realm study.

James Joyce Pub owner Gerary Curran said he’s happy to see the revitalization project underway, adding he’d like to see the street be more pedestrian friendly to attract a wider range of people.

“I’m hoping that Stephen Avenue remains closed for pedestrians for 12 months of the year,” he said. “I think the more people out walking is better.”

His business has been serving up Irish faire on the historic street since 1997.

“I think you have to draw from all sectors, even the younger generation as well,” he said. “They have to get over some of the stumbling blocks like parking and making it feel safe for families to come down to Stephen Avenue. They have to come up with great ideas for attractions.”

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Curran said the plan needs to be “really good” to bring people to the downtown street in the day and night times, and that finding solutions for parking is essential to that plan.

“Whether it’s restaurants, whether it’s a festival, a family gathering or a market — a Christmas market, a summer market — you have to attract people down and they’re number one complaint is parking,” he said. “So the city has to overcome that.”

Calgarians can register to attend Tuesday’s open house via or can watch the presentation online via Microsoft Teams from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

If you’re unable to attend, the city will still be soliciting feedback online between Oct. 20 and Nov. 10 at

For more information on the future of Stephen Avenue, you can visit the City of Calgary’s website.

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