REBIRTH: No stone unturned
East Village’s boundaries are the Bow River to the north; Third Street S.E. to the west (and up to Macleod Trail closer to the river); the Elbow River to the east (including Fort Calgary); and 9th Avenue S.E. to the south.
“We’ve spent the last year with our board and consultants to assemble and overplan East Village, making sure no stone is unturned,” says Ollenberger. “We want to develop it into a cohesive place residents want to see and want to live in. The result is the recently-unveiled master plan.
“We wanted to respect the character of East Village and its context within the city. It needed to be flexible to react to market changes and it needed a quality public realm, which we have already been working on.”
As part of the East Village project, an architectural firm was recently appointed to design the National Music Centre — part of the redevelopment of the old King Edward Hotel, new home of the Cantos Music Foundation. A call is out as well for proposals for a pedestrian bridge that will connect East Village with St. Patrick’s Island, home of the Calgary Zoo.
Other guiding principles in the master plan include:
“Room to breathe” for the architecture to allow diversity of housing types, says Ollenberger. “We’ll focus more on midrise apartments, rather than highrises like the Beltline,” he says. “Instead of restrictions, we’ll allow diversity with guidelines. In time, it will look like a true village.”
A diagonal pedestrian street in the core that cuts through the heart of East Village from 4th Street to 8th Avenue S.E. to the river. “With the King Eddie proposal, we wanted convenient and quick pedestrian streets and a river walk,” says Ollenberger.
Ease of movement throughout the village. A goal will be combining pedestrian thoroughfares with “accommodating vehicles,” says Ollenberger.
Creating a sustainable community. “We are on a large brownfield site, so there is much remediation to be done and our goal is sustainability,” he says.
About 12 blocks are currently under construction, with land being raised as much as 2.5 metres above the flood plain level.
The infrastructure upgrades, estimated to be in the $200 million range, are being funded in a new way for Calgary — tax-increment financing where the city pays up front, recouping its investment when the upgrades attract new development and increased property taxes.
“We’ve had interest from a number of builders and developers who see this as an exciting new venture for Calgary — a few from Calgary and others from places like Toronto and Vancouver, who have had a lot of experience with this type of development,” says Ollenberger.
“I think we will see some interest from U.S. developers, too, and even those outside North America. But by far, Canadian developers have shown the most interest.”
One of the local builders is Homes by Avi, which includes an Avi Urban division that specializes in condo developments.
The company has also been involved in The Bridges, another inner-city project spearheaded by the city on the site of the demolished Calgary General Hospital just across the Bow River from East Village.
“There is huge potential (in East Village) with a riverside community right in the central core,” says Charron Ungar, who heads up the multi-family division of Homes by Avi. “We’d like to see more institutional interests there, such as a learning facility, but we’re looking forward to the future, absolutely.”
Homes by Avi has some holdings in the area. The Calgary Municipal Land Corp. controls about half of the land in East Village, with the rest under diverse private ownership.
The whole inner city revitalization is happening — and city hall is to be commended, says Ungar.
“The city has recognized the huge potential in the city core and they are making a strong effort to redevelop it,” he says.
“I think that will pay off in a few years. The public realm is growing, but not only that.
“The private sector is putting money into development, even in a tough economy, and that’s having a positive effect on the city, creating options for housing and where to live.
“East Village will see an amazing development and redevelopment of park space. It’s innovative progress like that which truly sets our city apart.”
An artist’s rendering of some of the green space in the East Village redevelopment.