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Barlow/Max Bell LRT safety upgrades may have ‘fallen between the cracks’: Landowner

The owner of southeast Calgary land next to the Max Bell LRT station said an “ad-hoc” bus loop agreement they have with the city is where potential safety upgrades have “fallen between the cracks.”

Residents in the communities around the Barlow/Max Bell LRT raised concerns about safety around the bus loop and vacant land around the loop that often used for parking, saying that it’s too dark.

Shortly after, area councillor Ray Jones provided city administration with seven questions on the property during question period, hoping to find some answers.

Safety Concerns:

According to the city, Since Jan. 1, 2017 there has been one complaint logged through 311 about feeling unsafe at Barlow/Max Bell. In addition, two concerns from 2014 to present regarding safety in the area have been logged with Calgary Transit.

The station, which is located in between the east and westbound lanes of Memorial Drive is connected to the bus loop drop off area on the northside of Memorial.

Though the strip next to the bus loop is labelled as the Barlow Park and Ride, Gordon Parker, Senior VP with Toronto-based Real Group of Companies, the owners of the land, said there’s no formal agreement with the city for it.

Parker said that the bus loop agreement predated their acquisition of the property, which was back in the mid-1990s.

“I think over the years the city has added a little bit of parking into the bus loop. That’s the extent of it. There’s no formalized agreement beyond that,” he said.

“We certainly don’t do anything to maintain it. It’s not a formalized park and ride lot or anything like that as far as I know.

“That’s where it’s sort of fallen between the cracks.”

Despite a number of attempts, the city didn’t make anyone from Calgary Transit available to speak, but they did confirm that it’s private property and that they’re aware of recent concerns.

“Transit has a review underway on the location as well as costs to make improvements on the private property,” read an email reply from city media relations.

There was no additional information to share at this time, it read.

Crossroads Community Association president Larry Leach said they met with Calgary Transit officials and Coun. Jones earlier this week and he was given an indication he’d be provided with something to share at the CA’s February board meeting.

“In the past we’ve kind of accepted the answer as, ‘well, it’s private land and we can’t do anything about it,’” Leach said.

“But as I said, it’s been a couple of decades since anything has really changed there in a significant way. In my mind, when nothing has changed in 20 years, anything is progress for me.”

Coun. Jones asked for possible solutions quickly. He said he was told he’d have them next week. Still, he understands the challenge in making safety improvements.

“It is private land. It’s not ours. So, it’s tough to do leasehold improvements on something you don’t own or rent,” he said.

“We get the land for free, there’s no charge by the owner. I don’t know how hard we want to push.”

Jones also questioned whether or not the owner would want the city doing improvements when he suspects at some point they’re going to want to develop the land further.

“… and when they do that, the park and ride is going to have to come out,” Jones said.

Overhead view of the bus loop and makeshift Park and Ride at the Barlow / Max Bell LRT station. GOOGLE MAPS

Ultimately, it’s the land development that Leach think will be the catalyst for not only improvement of the bus loop and temporary parking, but the area around it.

To this point, Leach said he hasn’t even heard any rumours about possible development.

“There’s really a desire by everyone involved to see the land developed in some way. I hope that the folks that make those decisions, like the landowner, will really consider developing that in short order. It’s been 40 years without development,” Leach said.

“Any development would have such a fantastic impact on our community.”

When asked about a possible agreement for improvements to the area, Parker said that was something he’d discuss with the city and didn’t want to make those talks public.

As for development?  They’ve had nibbles, but nothing solid.

“The key with the site is getting a large enough development to kickstart it, and the ones that have come along in the past never came to fruition,” Parker said.

“Obviously now development in Calgary is kind of a non-starter. We’re happy to be holding the land, we’re not in any rush to develop it. It makes sense when it will make economic sense. It just hasn’t made sense yet to do anything.”

He expects that any future development would include further improvements and integration with the area CTrain station, however it would be contingent on negotiations around the development agreement.  

“Anything that’s there right now is essentially a bit of an ad-hoc arrangement. So, I think that’s why the city is saying they don’t have much to do with this and likewise so are we. I think the parking just evolved because people started parking around the bus loop,” Parker said.

“It’s one of those fall-between-the-cracks situations.”