Calgary unveils East Village master plan

CALGARY – The East Village master plan was unveiled this morning, outlining a future vision for the blighted area that includes commercial and residential developments, a pedestrian street cutting through the heart of the neighbourhood to the river and a new riverwalk.

While many of the concepts have previously been outlined in technical city planning documents, the man who heads the company responsible for redeveloping the area said this pulls all the pieces together.

“The master plan shows how the whole thing weaves together,” said Chris Ollenberger, CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corp., the agency charged by city council to transform the downtown community. “It shows the relationship between certain parcels of land, why this one is geared more towards residential, why this one is commercial.”

Using the tag of the “newest oldest coolest warmest neighbourhood” the Calgary Municipal Land Corp. (CMLC) will now try to sell the East Village – both the idea of the revamped community and some of the land. CMLC owns about half the lots in the East Village; 70 per cent if only vacant land is considered.

Ollenberger says while informal discussions with developers have already been held, they expect to begin marketing the East Village by early next year.

The East Village master plan sees the area being divided into six “character areas,” including gateways into the neighbourhood at the 4th Street underpass and at its northwest corner; capitalizing on its location along the Bow River; a “parkside” along the eastern edge which abuts Fort Calgary and existing park land; a transition area on the west side between downtown and the village; and its core, where the majority of development will take place.

The core includes a diagonal pedestrian street that cuts through its heart from 4th Street and 8th Avenue to the river.

It’s hoped the neighbourhood will be home to more than 10,000 people by 2020.

Long known for its homeless population and drug dealers, the East Village has been undergoing major work over the past few years. About 12 blocks in the neighbourhood are currently under construction, with land being raised as much as 2.5 metres to the flood plain level, streets being realigned and wider sidewalks and new lighting installed.

The city has started construction on the 4th Street underpass, which will provide a north-south connector from the Stampede grounds and the Saddledome to the bridge over the Bow River, requiring a tunnel be built under the CPR tracks.

CMLC has received numerous tenders to design a new bridge to St. Patrick’s Island.

The Cantos Music Foundation is renovating the King Eddy and has unveiled five possible designs for its new music centre, all of which incorporate the heritage building.

The East Village has been an issue for decades, but a number of previous attempts to revitalize the neighbourhood have failed.

In 2002, city council scrapped a deal to rebuild the area with private developers after an audit examining the bidding process and merits of the joint-venture agreement.

The estimated $200 million it will cost for the current East Village infrastructure upgrades – which the city says are necessary for developer interest – is being funded through a program called tax-increment financing, which sees the city pay for the work and then recoup the investment when the upgrades attract new development and increase property values. The property taxes from the Rivers district – which includes the under-construction Bow tower – will help pay for the work.


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