Courtesy Calgary Municipal Land Corporation
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Calgary’s new $550-million arena will be a catalyst for future private investment in East Victoria Park as part of the massive Rivers District master plan, according to the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC).

That master plan, which underwent intensive community engagement, envisions four million square feet of mixed-use development and more than 8,000 new residents within 500 acres on the east side of Calgary’s downtown.

Clare LePan, vice-president marketing/communications for CMLC, says the new arena, coupled with the expansion of the BMO Centre, will attract the investment necessary to achieve CMLC’s vision for the Rivers District – a high-density, mixed-use culture and entertainment area.

“We see the same investment happening as it did in East Village, but it won’t happen overnight,” she said.

City council recently approved a deal with Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), the private partnership behind the Calgary Flames, to jointly finance the new arena. It will eventually occupy a three-hectare site (currently used for parking) at 12th Avenue and Fourth Street S.E. in East Victoria Park, just north of the 36-year-old Scotiabank Saddledome. The existing arena will be demolished once the new one opens.

CMLC will lead the arena project and overall Rivers District redevelopment for the City, drawing on its experience as development manager for the revitalized East Village. That master-planned community already includes new condos, a variety of retail/commercial developments, and the striking architecture of the new Central Library and National Music Centre.

“We want to ensure it will be a year-round, desirable, vibrant neighbourhood – a thriving community outside event times — and it’s important the arena provide a positive effect on realizing development and private investment.” – Peter Oliver, Beltline Neighbourhoods Association

Arena construction is expected to start by 2021 – after a year spent finalizing design details and acquiring requisite permits – with completion expected in time for the 2024-25 Calgary Flames hockey season. The BMO Centre expansion is also planned for completion by 2024.

The next step is determining the look and function of the new building, and how it will fit into the Rivers District vision. CMLC will present recommendations on a public and partner engagement and design process to council’s Event Centre Assessment Committee on Sept. 5.

CSEC also has options to acquire two parcels of land (total value of $100 million) near the arena that are part of the Rivers District revitalization.

Chris Ollenberger, managing principal with QuantumPlace Developments, says approval of the arena should generate energy towards rejuvenation and reinvestment in the area, paving the way for development of “the type and style that has not yet been seen here.”

Ollenberger – former president and CEO of CMLC and a past-president of NAIOP Calgary, which represents the commercial real estate development industry – says the advantages of the area’s riverside location are self-evident, but they have been forgotten because of existing heavy industrial, rail and transit uses.

Peter Oliver, president of the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association, says his organization has been involved as a stakeholder in the Rivers District master plan and will maintain a presence in the redevelopment going forward.

“We want to ensure it will be a year-round, desirable, vibrant neighbourhood – a thriving community outside event times — and it’s important the arena provide a positive effect on realizing development and private investment,” he said.