East Village Rises Above

The backers of East Village won’t let recent flooding get in the way of their goal of making it one of the city’s most sought-after neighbourhoods.

According to flood maps released by the Province of Alberta, East Village is in a pink zone or flood fringe, despite flood mitigation measures undertaken by the community.

“The buildings that are being built in East Village are buildings that are considering flooding, so what does that mean? It means you have your electrical and mechanical buildings above grade,” said Michael Brown, president and CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. “We have done, and our developing partners have done so much work to make sure that (the Simmons Building) would stand up to a flood.”

Other measures including raising both the Simmons Building and roadways to take them out of the “flood path” and, after flooding began June 20, Brown said River Walk — a stretch of river pathways in front of the Simmons Building — was never under water and the Simmons Building “stood up incredibly well”.

“The water we saw within the Simmons Building was ground water, we had three feet of water in there, we started pumping on Saturday and it was out by Sunday,” he said. “With the history of this building, this flood was significant for Calgary, it wasn’t significant for the Simmons Building, it did incredibly well.”

After an initial cancellation due to flooding, there were some major, and flavourful, announcements concerning retail development in the East Village.

The more-than-100-year-old Simmons Building will be home to a new tenant group comprised of three local culinary “champions”; Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and the chefs behind Charcut Roast House, Connie DeSousa and John Jackson.

“For a baker, coffee maker and chefs, we picture the East Village as a beautiful, unique place for Calgary’s people to share only in Calgary good times,” said DeSousa. “The view, the architecture, the streets, the homes, the shops and the revitalization come to paint a scene that we can’t wait to add flavour to.”

The tenant group is one Brown said has the right personality for both the community and their new space.

“We could call them local superheroes,” he said. “These are all firms that … stand out in the Calgary market. They were attracted to East Village, they saw the opportunity in East Village … their personality suits the personality of our community.”

CMLC unveiled the master plan for East Village in September 2009 describing a livable, walkable community for more than 11,000 residents. In that time, there’s been two residential deals with Embassy Bosa and Fram + Slokker, a dual branded Hilton hotel project, the ground breaking of the National Music Centre and the announced location of a planned new central library.

“The approach we’ve taken in the last couple years here in advancing our retail strategy is really to advance it in two different pronged manners, urban format retail and village format retail,” said Susan Veres, CMLC vice president, marketing and communications.

Veres said urban format retail will provide the day-to-day necessities for residents of the village while village format will provide a “more intimate, boutique style convenienceoriented” development.

Integral to both formats was the announcement that RioCan, a company behind 2.2 million sq. ft. of retail space in Calgary, is constructing a 315,000 sq. ft. urban retail shopping centre on what’s known as the Calgary Police Association Block bound by Third and Fourth streets and Fifth and Sixth avenues.

“In our minds, it’s a perfect location for what we’re planning to do (in East Village),” said Stuart Craig, vice-president of planning and development with RioCan. “We are still in the designing stages but its evolving fairly quickly and we hope to be able to make applications to the city later this year and in our minds this will be a project that we will ideally be starting construction on next year and have open for business by 2017.”

Meanwhile, residents in the community who were displaced by the flooding are moving back in. Seniors living in King Tower and Edwards Place — of Trinity Place Foundation — have been returning to their homes since mid-July, welcomed with gift hampers, grocery gift certificates and new refrigerators.

Trinity Foundation has informed residents damages to life safety and mechanical systems to a third building in the community —Murdoch Manor — is more extensive than expected and residents will need to remain in alternate accommodations until repairs are completed about mid-August.

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