March 05, 2021 | Karen Durrie
A work in progress: Victoria Park is set to blossom into a cultural and entertainment hot spot
For more than a decade, most of Victoria Park has languished, abandoned and checkered with asphalt parking lots after the city expropriated land from about 200 property owners to allow the Calgary Stampede to proceed with expansion plans.
But, a few new residential hi-rises have cropped up around its edges, signaling that investors and buyers find promise in the area's future.
Calgary's land agency recently added fuel to that promise by hiring a team of urban designers and architects to create a master plan for the area as part of its Rivers District Revitalization Plan mandate.
The Calgary Municipal Land Corp. (CMLC) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the City of Calgary and its vision for Victoria Park is a "cultural and entertainment district" that will flow seamlessly with what the CMLC has already done in the East Village.
Area stakeholders, including the CMLC, Calgary Stampede, neighbouring communities in the Beltline, and representatives from the Green Line LRT project, will be involved in the consulting process. They will be joined by the design collaborative and master planning team of Mark Johnson of Civitas (Denver), and Stephen Mahler of Calgary's Gibbs Gage Architects.
The master plan will be revealed in June, but some infrastructure projects have been identified, including a 17th Avenue connector to 4th Street through the Stampede grounds.
"We'd add that so there is energy, and you don't have that physical barrier between the community and the Stampede grounds," said Jessa Morrison, senior manager of marketing and communications for CMLC.
Another probability is the extension of the river walk in East Village from Fort Calgary along the east side of Elbow River to the south side of the Stampede grounds and Lindsay Park, which "would connect a whole bunch of neighbourhoods," said Morrison.
Cycle track networks would be continued through Victoria Park as well, with the overall master plan expected to create a walkable area that flows through surrounding communities. In this way, it and is an organic extension of what its anchor – the Stampede Grounds – already offers.
"There will be 11,500 residents in the East Village once it's built out, so that is a ton of amenities for those residents. And there are some residents in Victoria Park now, and it will continue to grow," said Morrison.
It feels very vehicle-oriented today and not very accessible, and there are a lot of elements to what the Stampede is trying to do that haven't been put into effect, so you have a lot of empty space and parking lots.
It's good news for neighbouring Beltline community residents that have long felt a sense of detachment from Victoria Park, says Tyson Bolduc, director of planning for the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association.
"There is no great sense of community formed around the extreme eastern side of the Beltline. A positive outcome would be to see that sense of community and place extended further east," said Bolduc.
"It feels very vehicle-oriented today and not very accessible, and there are a lot of elements to what the Stampede is trying to do that haven't been put into effect, so you have a lot of empty space and parking lots."
Bolduc says that making Victoria Park a cultural and entertainment hub makes sense, growing it around what the Stampede has already established. It will also allow greater community flow and connection between areas such as Erlton and Inglewood, he adds.
"You can't find yourself wandering around the streets deciding to go to, say, Inglewood, without finding yourself in the no-man's land in between."
Ultimately, the re-development of Victoria Park will also increase property values in the Beltline and offer more to area residents, Bolduc says.
"It will see this part of the city become more vibrant and desirable. People here have made a conscious decision to live in the city centre, so they typically relish the idea there could be more for them in the Beltline, like the ability to go grocery shopping and to cafes, and a greater selection of where to go in the evening."