July 23, 2014 | Cody Stuart
The new westWest Village plans cast future of downtown core into spotlight
Construction cranes that dot the east downtown skyline are providing Calgarians a not-too distant
vision of what the city's core might soon look like.
Yet industry experts suggest future plans in the underdeveloped West Village will provide a better understanding of what's really in store in the heart of Calgary. "I think it could develop into [something like] False Creek in Vancouver," said Matthew Boukall, Calgary based director of residential advisory services for Canadian real estate advisory firm Altus Group, referring to Vancouver's emerging mixed use downtown community that houses, among other services, the 2010 Olympic Village.
"You look at the parallels – False Creek is fairly far from the downtown core, but it's creates its own little entity, and that's what the West Village could turn into."
Current development in Calgary's West Village – bounded to the north by the Bow River, to the east by 11th Street SW, to the south by the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks and to the west by Crowchild Trail - has been limited to the 8.2-kilometre West LRT, a $1.4-billion project that recently brought CTrain service to the area.
More concrete plans are still years away, with the City's planning team stating development in the area is a "long-term" notion.
In 2010, council approved a redevelopment plan that would create a pedestrian-friendly district featuring, among other things, a "grand staircase" reminiscent of the Spanish Steps of Rome to bring people from the West LRT's Sunalta station over the CPR tracks; a London-inspired roundabout to replace the winding exits between Bow Trail, 14th Street and Ninth Avenue; office highrises along 14th Street that would serve as area landmarks; and office and commercial development from 11th Street to Crowchild Trail, between the train tracks and Bow River.
"The biggest issue is timing," said Boukall. "We still have a lot of land to build out in the East Village. We still have a lot of land in the Beltline to build out."
Overall, Centre City – which is bound by the Bow and Elbow Rivers to the north and east and 17 Avenue South and 14 Street West – is expected to see up to 40,000 new residents and more than 60,000 new employees by 2035. Calgary's Centre City is currently home to more than 35,000 people, with 159,000 working in the area.
Elsewhere in Calgary, communities such as Victoria Park and Eau Claire will also have their say in shaping the future of the city's downtown. Eventually adding nearly 500 residential units to Victoria Park, the Orchard is planned across from the Calgary Stampede grounds. For the project, the developer is taking the unique step of including an apple orchard between the two 31-storey towers.
"The whole idea was to make this part of the city more attractive," said Brad Lamb, chief executive of the Toronto based Lamb Development Corp. "It's not lost on me that this area is barren at this point. And you can clearly see how development is moving from west to east. So we are, to some extent, the pioneer here, much like East Village was three or four years ago or like [the Aviva tower] was five or six years ago. Now both of these developments – properties to the west and to the north of us – are thriving areas people want to live in."
Lamb, who is also behind the 6th and 10th project in the Beltline, said developers in the city need to incorporate new ideas to continue to lure more Calgarians to move into the core.
"Condo developers must start thinking more courageously when it comes to designing downtown projects," said Lamb. "City living has so much to offer. Now is the time to start reinventing the way we envision downtown communities, especially the integration of shared green space."
One way new developments can build healthy communities is to incorporate more variety in their designs, he added.
Situated between the Sunalta stop on the new west LRT line and the existing Downtown-West station, one proposed development in the West Village would see WAM Development Group construct more than 1,800 luxury residential suites in four towers located above 150,000 square feet of retail space on the existing Metro Ford site at the corner of 10th Street and Ninth Avenue S.W.
Also helping to accommodate the expected influx will be Wexford Development Corp and Cidex Development's proposed West Village Towers. The project is expected to consist of three towers of residential development, totaling 575 units, with 90,000 square feet of retail and office space.
In Eau Claire, a development permit has been filed for a massive project that would see 1,100 residences, a hotel and supermarket constructed in the area.
The project, which would be located on land currently occupied by parking lots along Second Avenue S.W., would be comprised of six residential towers ranging from 19 to 33 storeys, 30 two storey townhomes, a 350-room hotel and 65,000 square feet of retail space.
West Village Series:
Part 2: The present