How 5 Major Calgary Infrastructure Projects Will Affect Their Surrounding Neighbourhoods

From the Green Line Station in Ramsay to a new event centre in East Victoria Park, these projects shows how the city and its neighbourhoods are changing.

Photo by Jared Sych.

Calgary’s 206 neighbourhoods are in constant evolution, regardless of their pace of growth, and the following five projects are evidence of the ways in which the city, and its neighbourhoods, are changing. Once conceived as car-oriented meccas, Calgary’s suburban neighbourhoods are embracing active modes of transportation — and the City is listening. In other communities, population growth is creating demand for housing, or for expanded recreational facilities. Finally, the successful revitalization of one of Calgary’s oldest communities hinges on the private investment triggered by the construction of a publicly funded arena. Read on to find out more about how these major projects will catalyze major change over the coming years.

 

Project No. 1 – New Event Centre in East Victoria Park

Photo by Jared Sych.

Can a new arena finally help East Victoria Park realize its potential? Part of the group of neighbourhoods that makes up the Beltline community, Victoria Park is no stranger to change. One of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods, it was slated for urban renewal in the mid-1960s, and, after many decades of decline, finally experienced a renaissance in the late ’90s. However, 30 years of gentrification have failed to integrate the easternmost part of Victoria Park with the rest of the Beltline. It’s at the intersection of two high-profile destinations, 17th Ave and the Stampede Grounds, yet remains disconnected from both — but that could be about to change.

The construction of a new home for the Calgary Flames is expected to solidify the identity of Victoria Park as a vibrant, inclusive neighbourhood, and provide an opportunity to restore the connection between the Beltine and the Elbow River. Moreover, public investment in the new arena is expected to catalyze the vision set out by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) for the new Culture + Entertainment District.

Besides contributing $800 million for a new event centre and $500 million for the BMO Centre expansion, the provincial and municipal governments are also funding the construction of community amenities, including a skating rink and public plazas, as well as infrastructure improvements, such as the 6th Street S.E. underpass, and upgrades to roads and sidewalks around the new event centre.

The hope is that, once built, these facilities will encourage private investment in both commercial and residential development. This is essential for the district’s success, because it would ensure East Victoria Park remains vibrant year-round. The sale of City-owned land would facilitate construction of a variety of home types, from more family-friendly options such as row homes along the Elbow River, to high-rise apartment towers along the CPKC Railway train tracks, boosting the area’s population for the first time since the early 1900s. Currently, this district has just under 1,000 residents, a relatively small portion of the 25,880 Calgarians that live in the Beltline. When the event centre is completed in 2027, apartments, hotels, restaurants and shops could rise around it, as CMLC’s master plan suggests, revitalizing the neighbourhood for event-goers and residents alike.

But these wins will require some losses. To make room for the arena, the City relocated a heritage building on 13th Avenue and 5th Street S.E., and cut down a 125-year-old tree colloquially known as “The Stampede Elm.”

Despite its grand ambitions, however, CMLC’s master plan for the Culture + Entertainment District in East Victoria Park is not a statutory document, and there are no assurances that public investment in a costly arena will deliver tangible benefits for the community at large, beyond the projects already funded.

 

Project No. 2 – Midfield Heights in Winston Heights/Mountview

Artist impression courtesy of City of Calgary Real Estate & Development Services.

An area of new housing developments has the potential to create better walkability for the neighbourhood of Winston Heights/Mountview. The established neighbourhood just north of 16th Avenue N.E. and bordered to the east by Deerfoot Trail, could double its population and welcome more than 2,600 new residents in the next decade — but change won’t be quick.

Three years after council approved the land-use plan for the former Midfield Mobile Home Park, a 24-acre site where 182 mobile homes had sat for five decades, the City of Calgary is now selling seven shovel-ready parcels to real estate developers. Construction has already begun on sidewalks and roads, while building construction is anticipated to begin next year.

Photo courtesy of City of Calgary Real Estate & Development Services.

Calgary’s newest urban village, named Midfield Heights to honour previous residents, will feature walkable streets with tree-lined sidewalks that provide pedestrians with a leisurely space to stroll, shop, dine and access an expansive view of the city. It’s a much-needed addition to a neighbourhood where the automobile continues to take precedence, and where two-thirds of residents drive to work.

This isn’t Midfield Heights’ only departure. Following the lead of East Village and University District, Midfield Heights is planned as a mixed-use environment, where residential and commercial elements enliven the community’s public realm. Boasting a central park surrounded by residential towers and low-rise multifamily buildings, the new development is expected to attract young families who are seeking easy access to public transit, pathway networks and urban parks.

More importantly, the availability of a range of housing options, including townhomes and apartments, should boost the population of a neighbourhood that has lost 1,137 residents since 1970. Currently, three in five dwellings in Winston Heights/Mountview are either a single- or semi-detached home.

The successful development of Midfield Heights could not only benefit newcomers, but existing residents in adjacent communities such as Renfrew to the south, which could take advantage of having more services and amenities in close proximity.

However, the 300 residents who used to live on the Midfield Heights site are no longer around to reap these benefits. Although Calgary’s Housing Strategy calls for the leverage of City-owned land to develop affordable housing, it remains uncertain whether Midfield Heights will include non-market units to serve lower-income Calgarians.

 

Project No. 3 – Green Line Station in Ramsay

Image courtesy of Green Line LRT Project

Construction of a new CTrain station is set to create a transit village hub in a once under-the-radar inner-city community.

As the initial phase of Calgary’s much-awaited Green Line gears up, the community of Ramsay is about to get aboard the growth train. Often overshadowed by its hip next-door neighbour, Inglewood, the inner-city community has remained somewhat under the radar. But plans to construct an LRT station in Ramsay are bringing it to the forefront.

In 2020, city council approved the alignment of the south segment of the Green Line, which locates the Ramsay/Inglewood station roughly at the intersection of 12th Street and 17th Avenue S.E., along the CPKC Railway tracks. The selection of this site was based on the feasibility of creating a “transit village” on vacant land; as a result, the buildings currently hosting arts organizations Artpoint and the Heritage Weavers and Spinners Guild of Calgary are slated for demolition, while the Lilydale poultry processing factory further down was demolished last November.

Illustration by Tyler Lemermeyer

The Green Line will do more for the community than provide an efficient transit connection: it will expand existing land uses beyond low-density residential, improve public spaces and attract investment to the area — effectively accelerating the transformation of Ramsay into a transit-oriented neighbourhood.

The City estimates that the population within a 10-minute walk of the Ramsay station will increase to 7,500 by the time the station is completed in 2030 — a boost for a neighbourhood that has lost 891 residents since 1968.

To support this growth, public-realm improvements are already underway, including the construction of a greenway along the LRT tracks that will connect Ramsay and the Elbow River Pathway, as well as streetscape upgrades along 11th Street and 11th Avenue S.E. that will reduce traffic and improve the pedestrian experience. Eventually, these streets could also become a destination for shoppers and diners, an opportunity noted in a 2015 planning document released by the City.

 

Project No. 4 – Making Martindale Safer for Cyclists and Pedestrians

Illustration by Tyler Lemermeyer

The purpose of Calgary’s Pathway and Bikeway (5A) Network Program is to provide safe access to active transportation modes to all Calgarians. For this reason, the City of Calgary will invest $39.1 million in building new pathways and bike lanes across the city over the next two years.

One of the first sections of this network is slated to begin construction next year in Martindale, a community in northeast Calgary, where the presence of three elementary schools and one high school attracts more than 3,500 students to the area every day.

Due to its high rate of traffic incidents, a three-kilometre section of Martindale Drive at Martindale Boulevard N.E. is set to be transformed by 2026.

While the project is still in its early stages, and engagement just kicked off in the spring, upon completion, this section of Calgary’s 5A network is expected to connect 14,540 Calgarians to schools, parks, shopping and other local amenities. The project will remove barriers to mobility, increase visibility, and separate walkers and wheelers from traffic. This approach is especially beneficial for the community’s 2,995 children under 14, who will have a safer route to school, the Genesis Centre or the Saddletowne Library.

According to Calgary’s Equity Index, Martindale’s health indicators are below target, demonstrating a prevalence of mental illness and chronic diseases like diabetes. Because cycling improves mental health, physical fitness and reduces the risk of mortality, the implementation of the 5A network would better position the community’s younger residents for success.

Ultimately, the City’s vision is to build a 4,000-km network that connects all Calgarians to the places where they live, work, learn and play. Since 75 per cent of residents currently drive to work, connecting Martindale’s 5A network to key employment centres in the area would hopefully be up next.

 

Project No. 5 – Vivo for Healthier Generations in Northern Hills

Photo by Jared Sych.

After expanding to meet the needs of its surrounding neighbourhoods, the next step for Vivo For Healthier Generations is figuring out how to be cost-accessible to a greater number of households.

Calgary’s Northern Hills is an area comprising the neighbourhoods of Country Hills, Country Hills Village, Coventry Hills, Harvest Hills and Panorama Hills in the city’s north. Currently, Northern Hills communities concentrate nearly four per cent of the city’s households. Yet, community amenities to serve them remain somewhat scarce.

This is one of the reasons why Vivo for Healthier Generations, a non-profit regional recreation centre, decided to expand its 190,000-sq.-ft. facility in 2020, increasing the organization’s service area from 75,000 Calgarians in 2004 to 170,000 in 2024 (this year marks its 20th anniversary).

By 2026, the organization expects that its catchment area will reach 190,000 Calgarians, with the build out of new communities nearby such as Livingston, Carrington, Lewisburg and Keystone Hills.

Illustration by Tyler Lemermeyer

Vivo (formerly known as Cardel Place) sits at the heart of the Northern Hills communities. Surrounded by schools, grocery stores and other service-oriented businesses, the facility offers a variety of opportunities to keep Calgarians active.

Because 43 per cent of the residents in Northern Hills are immigrants, Vivo’s expansion includes spaces that allow for a broader range of cultural expressions than a traditional recreation centre, including spontaneous play and public bathing.

However, while the expanded 262,000-sq.-ft. facility provides much-needed recreational space for the community, access isn’t free. The admission rates start at a $7 drop-in fee for children between the ages of two and nine, and rise to $2,000 for a pre-paid annual membership for a family of six — a cost range that isn’t within reach for everyone.

Households with an income that falls below the provincial low-income cut-off are eligible for a 50-per cent discount at Vivo via the City of Calgary’s Fair Entry program. In the communities of Country Hills, Coventry Hills, Harvest Hills and Panorama Hills, only 44 per cent of households whose earnings fall below $99,999, the income bracket closest to Calgary’s median, qualify for the City’s program (the number of households that qualify in Country Hills Village is higher, at 70 per cent). And finding a more cost-accessible recreation facility close by is not an alternative at this time.

As the area’s population continues to age, so will the need for low-cost facilities located within walking distance from people’s homes. Despite Vivo’s ambitious expansion, important gaps still remain for those who call a Northern Hills community home.

Learn more about the people and organizations moving Calgary forward with Avenue's Innovation Newsletter.

This article appears in the July 2024 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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