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  #1  
Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 7:46 PM
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Downtown Calgary: Where are we at in 2014?

A few people in the construction thread recently posted some positive things about downtown Calgary, and I'm curious to know what others think.

How does it compare to 10 years ago? How about 20 years ago? How about the direction its headed?
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Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 7:58 PM
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I wish I knew about what it was like 10 or 20 years ago by experience, but I can tell you that from my experience moving here 26 months ago, that things have even changed here since that time. I remember searching around downtown Calgary, hung over and in dire need of a bathroom and a drink, no one in sight, not one place open except for the timmies I eventually found. I think it was about 11 or noon at the time. Nowadays, even in the winter downtown has people walking around at all times of the day. It's obviously still busier on weekdays due to the 150 000+ office workers, but the core has shown marked improvement in liveliness over the last couple years, for sure. I think it has a lot to do with the improved image of the core, with developments like the River Walk, the Peace Bridge, and the beautification of 7th Avenue... just a lot of the public realm projects that made it such a more welcoming place... as well as, of course, the major increase in population seen in the Beltline.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 8:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Chadillaccc View Post
I wish I knew about what it was like 10 or 20 years ago by experience, but I can tell you that from my experience moving here 26 months ago, that things have even changed here since that time. I remember searching around downtown Calgary, hung over and in dire need of a bathroom and a drink, no one in sight, not one place open except for the timmies I eventually found. I think it was about 11 or noon at the time. Nowadays, even in the winter downtown has people walking around at all times of the day. It's obviously still busier on weekdays due to the 150 000+ office workers, but the core has shown marked improvement in liveliness over the last couple years, for sure. I think it has a lot to do with the improved image of the core, with developments like the River Walk, the Peace Bridge, and the beautification of 7th Avenue... just a lot of the public realm projects that made it such a more welcoming place... as well as, of course, the major increase in population seen in the Beltline.
As a life-long Calgarian (albeit a relatively young life) downtown Calgary has gotten exponentially busier. Particularly in the off-peak hours on Stephen Ave. 10 years ago it was very quiet, fewer restaurants and the ones that existed were more around the lunchtime crowd. Now the second busiest (and often busiest if there are a few concerts / conferences going on) is Thursday, friday and Saturday nights. Waaay more activity and options.

The river and Prince's Island have always been busy, but there is a very noticeable uptick around the Peace Bridge and the whole inner network as more people use it. Much much busier than when I was a kid (15 years ago).

The flow of pedestrians around and into the Beltline has also changed significantly. 17th Ave's holes have been filled (and more being filled with each new development). 10 years ago there was a vacant lot where Hanson's square is and the Shoppers / analog area around 7th street was much more vacant with shabby corner stores. Tompkins Park was for drug-buying and not much else. Now it is a hive of activity, buskers, Fro-yo frequenters, newspaper readers and coffee drinkers. That entire area changed little physically, just the level of activity increased significantly.

Many, many more bicycles than I remember too. Particularly on the few bicycle lanes we have really have concentrated a reliable stream of cyclists downtown. Only more to come with the new network.
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Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 8:24 PM
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Downtown today is drastically different than it was 10 or 20 years ago, even much different than 5 years ago.

The biggest difference over the last few years has been how busy it is on weekends and evenings. Downtown Calgary was always busy during the day, but quite dead on weekends and evenings. These days it's noticeably busier during the day, but much, much busier on off hours, especially on Saturdays. Downtown Calgary on a Saturday is at about the same level of activity as downtown Edmonton on a weekday. It's come a long way.

The biggest changes I have seen are:
-Stephen Ave (massive change from 10-15 years ago)
-7th ave. (much busier and much nicer)
-8th street (busy all day and evenings every day of the week)
-1st steet SW (much like 8th street)
-River path east of Centre street (exponentially busier)

If by downtown, you mean the Beltline too, then the change is even more pronounced than the downtown proper.
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Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 8:24 PM
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The other more recent developments along 10th Ave have really added some activity too. The amount of mega-bars and clubs have really pumped alot of life into the street, which if I recall always had some activity, just now it is much more consistent and extensive.
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Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 8:40 PM
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Making things nicer along Stephen Ave and 7th ave has helped a lot.

The new stations and landscaping along the 7th corridor have been a massive improvement to downtown. The integration of the LRT station and courthouse park turned out well IMO.

7th ave by Construction Mania, on Flickr


Definitely not the Stephen Ave of 10-15 years ago, and 100 times better than the Stephen Ave of 20-25 years ago.

Stephen Avenue Mall by Surrealplaces, on Flickr

Calgary's Stephen Avenue Mall by Surrealplaces, on Flickr



Eau Claire also has seen some great changes over the last decade or so.

Eau Claire on a Sunday

Calgary, Canada by Surrealplaces, on Flickr

Calgary summer day by Surrealplaces, on Flickr


Eau Claire during the evening

Bow River pathway by Surrealplaces, on Flickr

Bow River pathway by Surrealplaces, on Flickr


Better street interaction of office buildings has also been very good for downtown

Downtown Calgary street scene by Surrealplaces, on Flickr

Last edited by Surrealplaces; Jun 11, 2014 at 9:02 PM.
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Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 8:46 PM
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You should post those in the "Calgary Through the Seasons" photo thread, Surreal. They are excellent visions of summer in Calgary


Imgine how much different this city will be in the 5 years to come. Hopefully the Germaine will fill up completely, Vogue, Telus Sky, Avenue, the East Village, Elements, hopefully the first phases of Eau Claire, Waterfront, etc. So many more people coming into the core. Probably more than at any 5 year point in the history of the city.
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  #8  
Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 10:50 PM
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Wow, a lot of that even looks like improvement from the time I moved away from Calgary (2007), when I thought things were getting pretty good in the city. Stephen Ave in particular looks amazing! I am so excited to see Calgary again for the first time in 4 years - only 3 weeks away!
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  #9  
Old Posted Jun 11, 2014, 11:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MasterG View Post
As a life-long Calgarian (albeit a relatively young life) downtown Calgary has gotten exponentially busier. Particularly in the off-peak hours on Stephen Ave. 10 years ago it was very quiet, fewer restaurants and the ones that existed were more around the lunchtime crowd. Now the second busiest (and often busiest if there are a few concerts / conferences going on) is Thursday, friday and Saturday nights. Waaay more activity and options.

The river and Prince's Island have always been busy, but there is a very noticeable uptick around the Peace Bridge and the whole inner network as more people use it. Much much busier than when I was a kid (15 years ago).

The flow of pedestrians around and into the Beltline has also changed significantly. 17th Ave's holes have been filled (and more being filled with each new development). 10 years ago there was a vacant lot where Hanson's square is and the Shoppers / analog area around 7th street was much more vacant with shabby corner stores. Tompkins Park was for drug-buying and not much else. Now it is a hive of activity, buskers, Fro-yo frequenters, newspaper readers and coffee drinkers. That entire area changed little physically, just the level of activity increased significantly.

Many, many more bicycles than I remember too. Particularly on the few bicycle lanes we have really have concentrated a reliable stream of cyclists downtown. Only more to come with the new network.
I agree with all of this except the Tompkins Park bit. Analog is a boon for sure and it did replace a crappy corner store, but that Shoppers wiped out a bunch of good stuff. To me, 17th btw 5th and 9th has always been good and Tompkins has always had much the same vide. Elsewhere on 17 though, the retail / restaurant holes east of 5th are filling in nicely and the uptick in activity west of 10th has been awesome. It has become an (almost) complete street.

Beltline and Downtown are hugely different than 10 years ago, and almost unrecognizable from 20 years ago. There are still some zones of the CBD that are fairly dead, but that is no different than any other city, including most "world" cities.
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 12:04 AM
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Some days the core is absolutely packed, feels like a city 2-3 times our size. Was cutting through downtown on fri afternoon before heading out of town last week and the vehicle traffic was very heavy, but pedestrian wise even more so.

Public realms definitely improving, even within the CBD proper, lots of buildings are currently undergoing heavy podium level reno's and new landscaping etc.

Lots of new parks popping up, renovations, new shops and resto's, redevelopments of formerly ugly buildings, and most importantly new towers popping up like mushrooms.
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 2:34 AM
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Public realms definitely improving, even within the CBD proper, lots of buildings are currently undergoing heavy podium level reno's and new landscaping etc.
Is the Bow one of them? It is among the top of the list desperately needing a reno on the podium. What a wasteland!
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 3:04 AM
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I think the redevelopment of 7th Street has had a huge impact. 7th has really opened up as a pedestrian zone whereas before it was a place to be avoided.


Does anybody have any hard data for increased action downtown? I find it hard to believe that downtown is more active today than when things were really booming pre-2008. We may have had civic improvements (notably 7th and along the river) but the amount of money flowing around back then was unreal.
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 3:18 AM
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Keep an eye out this year - some exciting stuff coming up, in particular a proposal for long term (substantial) funding for public realm improvements. I'm working hard on that right now. Think the transformation of 7th Ave, East Village or 13th Ave, but all over the core.

In 15 yrs, downtown/beltline will be even more different than they are now from 15 yrs ago.
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 3:27 AM
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Keep an eye out this year - some exciting stuff coming up, in particular a proposal for long term (substantial) funding for public realm improvements. I'm working hard on that right now. Think the transformation of 7th Ave, East Village or 13th Ave, but all over the core.

In 15 yrs, downtown/beltline will be even more different than they are now from 15 yrs ago.
Go on....
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 5:03 AM
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Keep an eye out this year - some exciting stuff coming up, in particular a proposal for long term (substantial) funding for public realm improvements. I'm working hard on that right now. Think the transformation of 7th Ave, East Village or 13th Ave, but all over the core.

In 15 yrs, downtown/beltline will be even more different than they are now from 15 yrs ago.
and the very-near future 8th Street project no? thats one of my favourites
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 5:47 AM
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Centre 10 Used to be a strip mall with a parking lot. Does anyone remember what used to be where Opus 8 now sits?


Glass and Steel by Surrealplaces, on Flickr
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 6:06 AM
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^ a parking lot?
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 10:13 AM
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Yep parking lot in 2005
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 2:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wooster View Post
Keep an eye out this year - some exciting stuff coming up, in particular a proposal for long term (substantial) funding for public realm improvements. I'm working hard on that right now. Think the transformation of 7th Ave, East Village or 13th Ave, but all over the core.

In 15 yrs, downtown/beltline will be even more different than they are now from 15 yrs ago.
That's what I'm talking 'bout!

I was thinking even if they took a few % points of the total property taxes of office towers in the core, and dedicated that to public realm and infrastructure projects in the city centre, how far that'd would go here!
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2014, 3:54 PM
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Transforming Calgary’s downtown

Many businesses and individuals involved in drastic change

By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald June 12, 2014 7:29 AM

CALGARY - It’s that time of the year again.

The sun is out. The temperatures are warming up.

Time to make my annual pilgrimmage to downtown Calgary.

Of course, I do spend a lot of time in the heart of the city throughout the year - even during those frosty days when it would be easy to stay away from there.

But the improving weather conditions tend to draw me like a magnet to the downtown core each year - simply to hang out.

It wasn’t always that way.

When I first came to Calgary in October 1980, the downtown jungle was a mess with cranes all over the place. And the core of the downtown - Stephen Avenue - wasn’t the most appealing place to be back then.

Not very clean. Some crime-related issues. Not much for entertainment and food.

About the only reason I was down there was because the old Herald building was a stone’s throw away from Stephen Avenue and the Unicorn pub was a popular hangout.

After regular work hours, the downtown then was a pretty barren place.

But the times have changed.

Now, whether it’s morning, day or evening, Stephen Avenue is a hopping place.

And it’s getting more attractive each year with new restaurants, bars and retailers.

For me, it’s also just a great place to spend an hour or two with a coffee and watch the sights.

I was reminded of that recently when the Calgary Downtown Association announced its annual Downtown Vitality Awards. The awards are given annually to businesses and organizations in recognition of significant achievements in enhancing the vitality of downtown Calgary.

The recipients, the CDA says, help to meet the organization’s mission to champion a vital, prosperous, attractive and livable downtown community for everyone to enjoy.

“Each year, the CDA recognizes individuals, teams and corporations who go the extra mile in terms of making our downtown a better place for our ratepayers, their employees, citizens of Calgary, and visitors to our beautiful city,” says Scott Bey, chair of the CDA. “We look to acknowledge those whose actions align with the visions of the CDA of vibrancy through safety, cleanliness, beauty and excitement.”

For me, Stephen Avenue personifies those qualities.

But if you venture beyond that popular stretch of downtown real estate you will find those elements in numerous other places.

The list of CDA winners include: public safety, Calgary Police Service; public safety and disaster management, fire chief Bruce Burrell; public safety through construction management, Ellis Don and Brookfield Office Properties; community integration and vibrancy, the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre; community integration and vibrancy, Caffe Artigiano; community integration and vibrancy, Beakerhead, community integration and vibrancy, City Palate Really, Really Long Table Dinner; community integration and vibrancy, Food Recovery Task Force - Calgary Chamber and Calgary Economic Development; streetscape improvements, Centre City Implementation Team; enhancing the downtown through public art, City of Calgary Public Art Program; and enhancing the downtown through public art, Encana Leasehold Limited Partnership.

Transformation is not an easy or simple thing to do. For that reason, we should applaud all those businesses and groups - and the people associated with them - for leading the charge last year and for many previous years in helping transform downtown Calgary into the destination place it is today.

Don’t forget to give credit as well to the downtown association which has spearheaded much of that change as well.

If you haven’t visited downtown Calgary in a few years, you will be pleasantly surprised.

I am each and every time I decide to head down there these days.
http://www.calgaryherald.com/life/Tr...773/story.html
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