While Calgary’s Downtown West End has not seen much updating in the last three decades, plans for revitalization are underway.
Gary Young, president of the Downtown West Community Association (DWCA), has lived in the neighbourhood since 2006. He says inexpensive rent and the car-free movement are often draws to the diverse community.
“We’re probably one of the densest neighbourhoods in Calgary,” he said. “We have students, seniors, lots of kids and many new Canadians, too.”
The community’s artistic presence is a proud point of potential for the DWCA, including educational institutions and its urban mural project, but Young says the current pinnacle is Contemporary Calgary.
The visual arts collaboration connects Calgary’s Institute of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of Calgary and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Their transformation of the old Centennial Planetarium into a modern art gallery, set to open in 2021, is highly anticipated. “It will be akin to the new public library downtown, it will be spectacular,” said Young.
Active amenities are also energizing the area. Century Gardens is home to Canada’s largest skate park, and plans are in place to install a hydraulic lift below the Louise Bridge to create a river wave for surfing. “People are already surfing this year,” said Young. “It’s really cool down there and they’re talking about an urban beach and other improvements.”
Attractions within Downtown West include the University of Calgary’s downtown campus, Mewata Armoury, the Avatamsaka Monastery and Downtown Calgary Mosque. A dog park is being repurposed from a vacant lot, and renovations and an extension are planned for Stephen Avenue’s pedestrian mall.
“The community has been fantastic about appreciating, encouraging and supporting this redevelopment in all kinds of interesting ways.” – Sarah Itani, Cidex Group of Companies
While residential and commercial vacancy, and unused space in need of redevelopment, have challenged the area, the construction of West Village Towers is expected to breathe new life into the area.
The development will be built in three phases. As part of phase one, 44-storey residential Tower A is under construction, with occupancy of its 230 homes set for late 2020.
“We not only want to build, but we want to be occupying as we go,” said Sarah Itani, business development manager with Cidex Group of Companies, the developer behind the project.
West Village Towers will have a podium structure that hosts amenity-based retail, professional and food services, and public promenades. There is also potential for a grocery store tenant.
“The things that add value for both community members living in the building, but also those who live around the project,” said Itani. “We want to encourage people to interact, have a place to sit and have a conversation.”
Meanwhile, Cidex’s Hat @ 7 Avenue – a purpose-built, no-parking rental project rising above the LRT platform – is also progressing.
“They’re on level five of 12 and hoping to occupy by the end of this year,” said Itani. “It’s part of the City’s commitment to make our community greener and encourage urban development that doesn’t rely on vehicular traffic.”
As part of their new developments, Cidex is committed to aesthetic improvements in Downtown West. Their architectural details mimic the skyline of the Rocky Mountains, and they’ve involved local artists and mural projects.
“Incorporating art serves as a launching pad for these artists, a conversation with us and community engagement as well,” said Itani. “The community has been fantastic about appreciating, encouraging and supporting this redevelopment in all kinds of interesting ways. We’re coming together to rebuild our city and do spectacular things.”