Transforming what was once a blighted community into a thriving downtown community, Calgary’s East Village is already well on its way to becoming a vital part of the city. As vice president of Marketing & Communications for the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), the company in charge of the revitalization, Susan Veres is at the centre of one of the biggest developments to hit the city in some time. CREB®Now caught up with Veres to talk about the development and the city she calls home.
CREB®Now>> How is the East Village transformation going?
Veres>> The transformation is well underway. Recently, CMLC made a large public announcement about the retail vision of East Village and I think this was a critical step forward in our overall transformation. The announcement described a large urban shopping centre being built by RioCan which will house a much-needed grocery store. And, the announcement detailed the future of the historic Simmons Building as a culinary destination for Calgarians. Simmons will become home to Charbar, a new restaurant by co-executive chefs and owners of Charcut, Connie DeSousa and John Jackson. It will also house Phil & Sebastian’s coffee roasting house and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. I think the retail announcement was the icing on the cake for the East Village redevelopment project. Future residents can now get a sense of how their living needs will be met in the community.
CREB®Now>> How much did the flooding affect things?
Veres>> It looked rather wet around the community for three days but when the water subsided, and we were able to do our damage assessments, we were happy to see that the flood-proofing work we did had held strong particularly along the RiverWalk promenade and RiverWalk plaza which were unscathed. We were three months away from completing the St. Patrick’s pedestrian bridge when the flood hit. Intense water pressure and items smashing into the structure caused damage to the bridge deck and spans. Yet, early assessments of the bridge abutments (moorings) suggest that there is little/minimal damage to these areas. We have added another year to the construction schedule as a result of the flood and hope to have a grand opening in late fall, 2014.
CREB®Now>> How has the response been to the changes in East Village thus far?
Veres>> We have had a great response to the residential offerings of East Village and have sold approximately 400 units in the past 18 months. We have broken ground on three major projects (National Music Centre, First by FRAM+SLOKKER and Evolution by Embassy BOSA); and we had 54,000 visitors come into the neighbourhood to check out the transformation taking place. It’s really been remarkable to see how the village brand is becoming synonymous with downtown urban living.
CREB®Now Why has involving the public with events in East Village been so important?
Veres>> It’s important to be able to showcase the improvements and quality of the infrastructure work being done throughout the community by inviting people into the area to attend interesting and relevant events and programs. Events like Rock the Walk, Flow in the Dark and (this year) Operafest featuring Pirates of Penzance give Calgarians an opportunity/excuse to come downtown along the river banks to witness how this community is growing up.
CREB®Now>> What’s the next major step?
Veres>> Retail has been a huge focus for us and now that we have announced our plans and vision, we want to make sure that retail development can get started as soon as possible to support our first new residents moving in by 2015. We also are focused on getting the new Central Library project co-ordinated and underway. This cultural and educational amenity will be a great draw for our community.
CREB®Now>> Have Calgarians’ perceptions of East Village/ Downtown changed?
Veres>> Yes. Calgarians are becoming more aware of the community and its master plan. They consider it progressive, intelligent in its design and focus, and a burgeoning community for arts and culture. This is very exciting for CMLC and our partners, as the neighbourhood is becoming a community in which people are choosing to live.
CREB®Now>> What’s one essential element to a successful community?
Veres>> Diversity. Diversity in residents (old and young); diversity in architecture and design; diversity in residential product, diversity in retail offerings, diversity in culture etc.
CREB®Now>> If you could change one thing about Calgary, what would it be?
Veres>> I would add more entertainment venues and nightlife!
CREB®Now>> What’s your favourite room in your home and why?
Veres>> I love my kitchen. I relax when I bake so I tend to spend my weekends baking treats. It’s not great for my hips, but it’s good for my head and heart!
CREB®Now>> What’s Calgary’s best-kept secret?
Veres>> I don’t think it’s a secret but I love the community bakeries like Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, Lazy Loaf and Diner Deluxe! There are some great bakers in Calgary.