Currie Barracks development to add 11,000 residents under higher density model
A proud history is set to become an ambitious future for one of Calgary’s most historic communities.
Currie Barracks, the former Canadian Forces Base (CFB) in southwest Calgary, is about to undergo a transformation that will eventually see the area home to as many as 11,000 new residents.
A joint venture of Canada Lands Company (CLC), Embassy BOSA and Urban Design Associates, the new development plans for the historic area increase the number of housing units from the 3,200 proposed in 2007 to 5,200.
“We’re in the process right now of amending the previous zoning that was approved in 2007,” said Doug Cassidy, vice-president of real estate, Western Region, for CLC.
“As we’ve gone back and looked at the plan we’ve essentially gone back to the drawing board and looked at what does it take to create a wonderful, livable vibrant community in Currie and a significant residential population is certainly key.”
Other aspects of the new plan, which were presented to the public in a series of open houses, include increasing the amount of commercial space in the neighbourhood from 300,000 to 750,000 sq. ft. and residential towers that reach 30 stories rather than the 12 stories under the previous plan.
According to Cassidy, the revised plan takes into account changes that have taken place in the city since the development was first proposed in 2001 and offers a greater range of housing options to a greater number of people.
Given the popularity of nearby neighbourhoods such as Garrison Woods – which itself is a CLC redevelopment of 161 acres of former CFB land – he admits expectations for the new community are high.
“Since the plan for Currie Barracks was submitted, it’s always been expected to be Garrison Woods on steroids. There’s always been the expectation for more retail and leisure than was in the plan at Garrison Woods and a higher density of residential development. And given the size of the community — it’s almost a 200-acre parcel of land — it’s an opportunity to create a true city within a city.”
One of the reasons for the revised plan, according to Cassidy, has been the increased interest amongst Calgarians in condos combined with an interest in living closer to work.
“There are a lot of Calgarians that are willing to forgo the big house in the suburbs and either have a townhome with a smaller backyard and a 30-minute [shorter] commute each way or an apartment condo. We’ve seen a lot of interest in smaller single-family townhomes and apartment condos.”
Through the first three months of 2014, combined condominium (townhome and apartment) sales in Calgary have increased by 27 per cent.
Located within walking distance of Mount Royal University, Westmount Corporate campus, the soon to be developed ATCO campus and sitting just a 10-minute drive from downtown Calgary, those behind the development said the desire for a complete community was one of the driving forces behind the changes.
“One of the interesting processes here, with the way the plan is evolving, is how do you support and sustain a full urban lifestyle?,” said Rob Robinson of Urban Design Associates.
“As Calgary is evolving, particularly in that neck of the woods, it’s getting tougher and tougher to treat it as a suburban enclave adjacent to the downtown rather than an emerging district. So the balance in that site was beginning to think about a more diverse population.”
However, with 11,000 people moving to a community (Rutland Park) that now is home to just 2,224, there are bound to be some doubts. Marc Doll, president of the Marda Loop Community Association, said from residents he’s spoken to, the major issue isn’t added population itself, but the impact of added traffic.
“The major concerns that I’m getting are not about density necessarily, it’s how that neighbourhood integrates with the existing neighbourhoods,” said Doll, who’s concerned about increased traffic levels in a residential community that’s home to many young families. “The biggest point of contention has been Flanders Ave. That’s going to be the front porch of that community.”
The plan for Currie Barracks does include a $28-million interchange at the intersection of Flanders Avenue and Crowchild Trail, which will be initially paid for by CLC and later paid back by the city.
Also helping to reduce traffic in the area will be a Bus Rapid Transit route, along with improved access for pedestrians and cyclists and parks that incorporate some of the historic structures in the area.
The interchange and the first phase of residential and retail developments are expected to open sometime in 2017. For more information on Currie Barracks, visit www.currieurban.ca.