Exciting Enjoyable Eclectic

The communities of Hillhurst, West Hillhurst and Sunnyside have established themselves as some of Calgary’s most eclectic, bustling and sought after places to call home.

The three communities are some of the city’s oldest with Sunnyside first established in 1904, followed by Hillhurst in 1914 and West Hillhurst in 1945, a community with the majority of its homes built as “Victory Homes” for soldiers returning from the Second World War.

Today, with its easy access to public transit, high walkability scores and mix of heritage buildings, kitschy shops and trendy restaurants, the three communities have every imaginable amenity a stones throw away from residents’ front doors.

The Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association with its central community centre location and easy access via car, foot or transit, makes it one of the busiest community hubs in the city. The building, which also houses a daycare and a gym, is home to a farmer’s market, flea markets, antique collectible market and several other community events. The association caters to all of its communities’ residents from a toy-lending program for the kids to a Monday group for seniors.

Hillhurst, West Hillhurst and Sunnyside are full of residents who care for the communities they call home. In 2011, the Bow to Bluff citizen- led initiative to create great public spaces in Calgary engaged stakeholders for ideas to revitalize the public corridor along the Sunnyside LRT line from the Bow River to McHugh Bluff. The initiative gathered 3,000 people who were not only residents but from surrounding communities as well.

“We ran this long engagement at the Ant Hill (building) where we had regular store front hours,” said Tamara Lee, Bow to Bluff’s communication chairwoman. “We ran all kinds of targeted events and we really thought about our stakeholders and thought ‘you know what?’, this is a corridor, there are kids from SAIT and ACAD who use this, there are other communities like Rosemont, Rosedale, Crescent Heights who come down through Sunnyside to get downtown so there are commuters, there’s an LRT station so there’s transit users, there are cyclists, there are pedestrians, there are visitors to Kensington, shoppers, there are all kinds of people who don’t live here who are stakeholders.”

An urban design guide and best practices process guide were created out of the initiative, including public input on what the corridor should look like and how the initiative developed citizen-centered engagement. The guide was presented to council last July and Lee explained the City is using it internally.

“It really is an amazing thing because we can actually see the city changing its processes, this isn’t a theoretical thing, this isn’t being put on a shelf, its pretty awesome actually,” she said.

Located along the corridor, the Kensington triangle lot is currently undergoing a transformation of its own as its old building was torn down and the empty lot is slated for a future project.

“The city has (it) ideally as a future affordable housing site,” said Gail Sokolan, co-ordinator of Affordable Housing. “We do not have any particular plans for that because at this point we don’t have the funding to move forward.”

In the meantime, there’s a proposal in the works to transform the lot into a container village — using shipping containers — this summer, similar to a container village held at the East Village’s Fluid Festival last fall.

“It goes back to the core of what a village is about … meeting points, courtyards,” Nicole Mion, artistic director of Springboard Performance and one of the names behind the East Village project told the Calgary Herald. “In a large city, it is easy to lose sight of our neighbours. It’s very easy to drive to the suburbs, put your car in the garage, have dinner, watch TV and then the day starts again.

“In a village, there are meeting points for conversation, for commerce, for creative ideas, that I think is a really exciting step for Calgary and community.”

The Plaza Theatre
Starting out as a garage in the late 1920s, the Plaza was transformed into a theatre in 1935 with the first film offering Mr. Skitch starring Will Rogers. Today the Plaza looks much the same as it did all those years ago. It’s one of the few remaining art house theatres in Calgary showing both mainstream and independent films not available at larger theatres and housing various guest speakers, events and festivals including the Fairy Tales Film Festival and an annual showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Sunnyside School
Named for the community it serves, Sunnyside School celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2009. The school serves Kindergarten to Grade 6 and has an exterior highlighted by three naturalized areas; Riverstone Park, Prairie Patch and Aspen Woodland developed between 1998 and 2002. The school is very inclusive of the surrounding community with a mentoring program, Grandparent Reading program and Artist-in-Residence program.

Peppino Gourmet Foods
Dubbed Calgary’s “Littlest Italy”, Peppino’s offers a wide range of deli meats, pasta and more. The real gem of this Kensington Road location though, is the sandwich selection. From the Artichoke Turkey to the Da Nico’s to the Hoe Down Hoagie, Peppino’s has a sandwich for everyone, even those with the most discerning of tastes. Friendly staff and a constant of good eats make the deli, open since 1993, a community mainstay.

Vendome
Situated in Sunnyside’s Vendome Block, Vendome Café is “a touch of Europe” serving breakfast, coffee, lunch and brunch seven days a week. George W. Rae constructed Vendome Block in 1912 and North Star Grocery originally occupied retail space on the ground floor for more than 70 years. In its earlier days, the building was home to Chicago Blackhawks alumni Sid Finney and liberal senator Jack Austin. Other tenants in the past included a candy store, meat market and shoe repair shop.

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