Central Memorial Park in the Beltline.
Aug. 18, 2020 | Cody Stuart
Historic heartbeat: the Beltline offers glimpses of Calgary's past, as well as its future
Located smack-dab in the middle of the city and packed with amenities, the Beltline could be considered both the literal and figurative heart of Calgary.
Encompassing the historic neighbourhoods of West Connaught, Connaught Centre, Victoria Centre and East Victoria, the community's name originated from the Calgary Municipal Railway's Route No.5 – known as the "Belt Line."
While the days of the old streetcar system have come and gone, the buildings constructed in those early days have provided the foundation for one of Calgary's most vital communities.
"The Beltline is a great place to live because it's vibrant," said Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley. A born-and-raised Calgarian, Woolley was first elected to city council in 2013 and has spent the last seven years serving Beltline residents.
"There's still room for the Beltline to grow." - Evan Woolley, Ward 8 Councillor
Today, more than a century after the first buildings sprang up in the area, glimpses into the past are not hard to find. A quick stroll around the Beltline – one of the city's most walkable communities – will yield plenty of sights that date back to Calgary's earliest days, as well as several of the city's best amenities. In addition to that history, Woolley says the community also has a vitality that has come from an influx of younger generations and new businesses.
"It has wonderful restaurants, shops and a variety of everything, including people," he said. "A lot of young people have chosen to live in the Beltline, which brings a special kind of energy."
Along with iconic Ship and Anchor pub, Woolley says one of his favourite spots in the community is Central Memorial Park.
"It's a provincially-designated heritage site and Calgary's oldest park," he said. "The park is known for its beautiful Victorian garden and also has some fun water features, which my young son loves."
Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley and his son, Markus, at the Beltline Urban Mural Project (BUMP) Festival Launch Party in Central Memorial Park in June 2019.
One of Calgary's oldest park sites, the park sits on land that was presented to the then-budding town of Calgary as a gift from the Government of Canada in 1885. The formal gardens and paths were laid out in 1908, and thanks to a major facelift in 2009, they appear nearly unchanged today. Home to many sculptures and monuments that honour the contributions of Canadian veterans in many international conflicts, the park hosts annual Remembrance Day ceremonies. In keeping with the community's blend of new and old, the park is also home to a new café and restaurant, operated by Sidewalk Citizen.
Adding to that blend will be new developments coming to Stampede Park and East Victoria Park. Slated to break ground next summer, the BMO Centre expansion will see the existing centre's floor space doubled to nearly one million square feet, while the upcoming $550-million Calgary Flames arena project is projected to break ground in the fall.
Despite difficult economic conditions in the city, Woolley says the projects will further boost the Beltline's existing profile.
"There's still room for the Beltline to grow," he said.
"Even though our economy has slumped for the past few years, the Beltline is one of the few places in our city where we still see cranes and construction. There are some significant residential developments underway or planned, so we'll see more people moving to the neighbourhood in the next few years."
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