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9-block program to breathe life into area around Calgary city hall

Improved safety and downtown vibrancy are the goals of a partnership to spruce up the area around Calgary city hall.

On Tuesday, at the downtown location of the University of Calgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL), Mayor Naheed Nenshi, John Brown, SAPL dean heralded the union, where student researchers will look at ways to inexpensively boost the appeal of the nine blocks surrounding Calgary city hall.

The idea around the 9-block program is for students to devise tactical urbanism pilot projects in the area that make it more inviting. The boundaries for the program are 1 Street SE, 6 Avenue SE, 4 Street SE and 9 Avenue SE.

9 block area. CITY OF CALGARY

 “The area around City Hall is the heart of Downtown Calgary – it’s where government, education, and the arts come together,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“I’m thrilled that through this partnership with the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, we’ll have the opportunity to test inexpensive and innovative ideas aimed at improving the safety and vibrancy in this neighbourhood.”

Brown said their City Building Design Lab is in the heart of the downtown for precisely this sort of project.

“Our mission is to bring together our students and researchers with municipal policy makers and the public to explore new directions in city-building,” Brown said.

Projects will also look at wayfinding in the area and leveraging programming through community partnerships.

Tie to Stephen Avenue

Boundary area for Stephen Avenue Transformation delivered in a presentation Tuesday. SCREENSHOT

Mayor Nenshi said this kind of work is similar to the efforts around Stephen Avenue and also the Green Alley program – also done through the U of C’s SAPL.

Members of the city’s Priorities and Finance Committee got a review of plan to use $300,000 in the Council Innovation Fund to test mini-projects along Stephen Avenue as a part of street’s larger transformation.

Michael Magnan, Public Realm Lead with the City of Calgary said this is a way to put together “light, quick and cheap interventions” that they can test and measure the outcomes before they refine further design of Stephen Avenue.

“So, it’s almost like, if you’re trying to shoot for the moon and you’re off by two degrees, you missed the moon by, you know, 2,000 kilometers by the time you hit it,” said Magnan.

“This gives us the ability to sort of readjust our trajectory now and test some ideas.”

Examples of simple activations (presented in the PFC meeting). SCREENSHOT

Magnan said they can sort of celebrate the temporary nature of some of the proposed ideas, and do things that are “cool and maybe a bit different.”

Coun. Druh Farrell said this presents a host of opportunity to experiment without a lot of risk.

“We have an opportunity to engage youth. We know that youth and an exciting downtown have to go together. And what are they interested in? What makes them excited about Calgary?” Farrell said.

“We want to inject a little bit of life and hope back into our downtown.”

Members approved that request and it will move forward to Calgary city council.