As Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood, Inglewood combines historical stone buildings with more contemporary designs for a unique aesthetic. Courtesy Inglewood Business Improvement Area

Blast from the past

Old and new Calgary collide in eclectic Inglewood

Voted Canada’s best community in the 2014 Great Places in Canada contest, Inglewood stands out for a variety of reasons, beginning with its historic flavour.

Founded almost 150 years ago in 1875, the area has a long and storied history and displays its status as Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood with pride. Many of the community’s original stone buildings still grace the main stretch along 9th Avenue (originally, Atlantic Avenue), and although they may no longer host their original founding businesses, a new collection of storefronts, from funky cafes to antique furnishing and vintage clothing stores, now calls the
area home.

“It is a pretty interesting and dynamic place to live and work,” said Rebecca O’Brien, executive director of the Inglewood Business Improvement Area (BIA). “It might sound a little cliché, but Inglewood really is the quintessential village within a city.”

O’Brien moved from Halifax to Calgary in 2005, settling in Inglewood. “I said to myself that I would stay for one year max, but there was just something about Inglewood. It hooked me in,” she said.

Along with the vast majority of Inglewood residents, O’Brien lives, works and plays in the neighbourhood. “When I first started my job as executive director, I passed around a survey asking people if they lived and worked, and/or owned a business, in Inglewood, and the answer came back at 49 per cent. There is a really vested interest in the community as a whole here,” she said.

She notes that even the children and teens who live in the community are very connected. “Most of them go to school, play and work part-time in the businesses in the area,” she said.

Certainly, Inglewood is peppered with all of the essential ingredients that make a community desirable. It’s quirky; it features a number of beautiful green spaces, from the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary to the river pathways and the fish hatchery; it’s without a doubt the city’s number-one hot spot for live music; and it offers visitors and locals a rich smorgasbord of shops along its urban high street – 9th Avenue.

Recently, several new landmarks have started rising up – glass-sheathed, contemporary designs, housing art galleries, Italian markets and coffee shops, along with amenity-rich condominium collections.

Take for example AVLI on Atlantic Avenue, a five-story collection of 64 condominiums, garden terraces and townhomes. Two-storey homes on the third floor will feature yards as large as an infill and ground-level live/work units will back onto the lane across from century-old homes. At the podium level, two-storey business and retail space will have access to a public courtyard.

“It is a pretty interesting and dynamic place to live and work. It might sound a little cliché, but Inglewood really is the quintessential village within a city.” –  Rebecca O’Brien, executive director of the Inglewood Business Improvement Area (BIA)

“As urban designers and architects, we have always believed that when you develop in a neighbourhood like Inglewood, you need to treat the historic fabric with kid gloves,” said Jeremy Sturgess of Sturgess Architecture, the firm behind the AVLI project’s design.

To that end, AVLI has been designed with a tight retail edge and the remainder set back, allowing for the creation of a public space on 9th Avenue that doesn’t currently exist. The project will ebb and flow architecturally, melding with its neighbour, the Hose & Hound Neighbourhood Pub, which was also designed by Sturgess back in 1979.

O’Brien says AVLI is an important piece of architecture because it takes into account the importance of the public realm in design. “That’s a trend that we are really encouraging,” she said. “We are doing our best to create a street that is a living room.”

To achieve this goal, the Inglewood BIA is currently in the process of mapping out a streetscape master plan. “A big part of that will be public realm improvements, including public art,” said O’Brien.

She hints that the BIA will be announcing a new commission soon, adding to the revolving temporary installations – Beakerhead installed its Tentacles exhibit last year – and the permanent installation under the pedestrian walkway of the CPR train bridge – a mixed media mural that manipulates colour, texture and form by artist Lane Shordee.

“Inglewood is a place where eccentricity is allowed to be and to flourish,” said O’Brien. “There are artists, musicians and creative people. It is a vibrant and dynamic, as well as a cozy and comfortable, place to live.”

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