March 05, 2021 | Andrea Cox
Density in the city: new developments in Marda Loop build upon the community's urban appeal
Over the past decade Marda Loop has evolved and changed, transforming from a quiet, off-the-radar neighbourhood into a hip, city centre destination. The change is being fueled, in part, by Marda Loop's business district, which runs along 33rd and 34th Avenue south west.
"Marda Loop is growing up from a commercial area in a suburban setting to a much more urban, walkable and lively business community," said Bob van Wegen, executive director of the Marda Loop business district.
Named after the Marda Theatre and the old 33rd Avenue streetcar, which "looped" back to downtown, Marda Loop was originally limited to the business district.
The name has grown to include the residential portion of the community that spills into South Calgary, Currie Barracks, Altadore, and River Park. These areas offer a multitude of housing styles from two-storey Craftsman style homes built in 1910 to swanky new contemporary four-plex and infill designs.
New retail, commercial and residential projects are rising in Marda Loop's business district. Garrison Corner, designed by Abugov Kaspar, opened last summer and has quickly become a busy hub with tenants such as Village Ice Cream, Cobs Bread, and DAVIDs Tea.
The building engages at pedestrian level and includes third-storey walkouts. A second level daycare tenant offers outdoor play space on the large patio above the garage entry. The structure's design adds to the walkable vibe already in place along the Garrison strip, which includes boutique retail stores and ANEW Table – acclaimed as one of Avenue magazine's top eateries.
Along 33rd Avenue, McKinley Burkart's latest design opens in late April with the unveiling of its anchor tenant, Blush Lane Organic Market. Kitty corner to this sits Avenue 33, a five-storey, mixed-use residential project currently under construction. Its builder, Sarina Homes, has operated in Marda Loop for over a decade.
"Marda has always been a special community," said Naz Virani, founder of Sarina Homes. As a proponent of smart growth, Virani says the community is a great place to "set the table" for the City's vision to increase city centre density, especially by utilizing and activating main streets, like the 33rd Avenue corridor.
Marda Loop is growing up from a commercial area in a suburban setting to a much more urban, walkable and lively business community.
There's no doubt density is a key factor in the neighbourhoods. The area is hopping with people out walking, shopping and exploring. And it's easy to ditch the car; Marda Loop is in the car2go zone and zipping along on two wheels in the new bike lane is a snap.
To celebrate the area's evolution, the inclusion of public art into the streetscape is becoming top-of-mind.
"It's no secret that public art is an engager and an integrator," said van Wegen, adding that the recently opened arts incubator, cSPACE King Edward has influenced the initiative. "Art animates the streetscape and it gets people thinking about the neighbourhood in new ways."
With that in mind, Sarina Homes recently commissioned a mural for its Avenue 33 construction site.
"We wanted something that spoke to the vibrancy and walkability in the area," said Virani.
Called In Motion, the colourful piece celebrates the interaction taking place throughout the community in the form of movement. Created by local artists Daniel Kirk and Lane Shordee, the mural is their second collaboration. The pair also worked together on the Inglewood Corridor last year. The project involved a comprehensive activation under the 9th Avenue underpass on the south side of the CPR rail bridge and Blackfoot Trail S.E.
When it came to the Marda Loop mural, the duo took an abstract and playful approach to the theme.
"We wanted to speak about the growth of Marda Loop using the grid structure in urban planning," said Kirk. "We met that with direction, colour, light and abstract form speaking to different ways of moving through community from foot traffic, dogs, people, backpacks, feet, legs, whimsical elements."
Once Avenue 33 is complete, the mural will be integrated into the project's foyer.
And this summer, Marda Loop's BIA is planning a temporary public art installation along the 33rd Avenue corridor to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday.
"We're not sure of all of the details, but stay tuned for more information," said van Wegen.