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OPINION: Often chided for its suburban sprawl, Calgary has solid track record of infill development

Calgary is often criticized by urbanists for its huge footprint with new communities being built on the city’s edge.

It should, however, be commended for the number and diversity of infill projects the City and its developers have built over the past 25 years. They continue to get built today.

East Village, Calgary’s postcard for infill development with its many new residential towers, new library, museum, RiverWalk and public art, gets a lot of the headlines. But, it’s not Calgary’s only major infill development.

In Bridgeland/Riverside, The Bridges is now nearing completion after 20+ years.  Canada Lands has been developing the old Currie Barracks site next to Mount Royal University since the late 90s. It has a population of 707 people today. Plans are in place for it to grow to 10,000 in the future – about the same size as East Village.

Canada Lands is also leading development of Garrison Woods and Garrison Green on the old Canadian Forces Base. These have populations of 2,745 and 1,680 respectively.  

Their neighbour, Marda Loop, looks like one big construction site with new developments on almost every corner.  

New developments, model design

University District, (formerly known as West Campus) is an ambitious project managed by West Campus Development Trust on behalf of the University of Calgary.  This project is unique in that the land is leased, (not owned) by the developers and residents. 

This new area, with its main street modelled after Kensington Village, is quickly becoming a model 21st Century urban village. The new Save-On-Foods grocery store will be opening soon. University District is unique in that it includes an age-in-place seniors living complex in the early stages of the community’s development. Often this is done at the end of development.

Speaking of Kensington Village, it is undergoing a renaissance with numerous residential developments recently completed or under construction today. Over the past 10 years, 2,000 new people have moved into the neighbouring communities.  The same for the Beltline, which has several new residential towers nearing completion.  It’s one of Calgary’s fastest growing communities, outpacing even new suburban communities. 

Two new residential developments have opened recently in Inglewood, Calgary’s oldest community. One is still under construction and three others in the late planning stages. 

Take a drive along Elbow Drive and you’ll see how the upscale Britannia Plaza has quietly become a mixed-use hub with four new developments at 50 Avenue SW. 

Take a ride along the NW leg of the LRT and there are many multi-family residential developments. They’ve popped at Lion’s Park, Banff Trail, Brentwood and Dalhousie stations. There are plans for more.

Calgary also has a long history of supporting infill housing along residential streets. Older, single-storey homes on 50-foot lots are gradually being replaced by new homes; this has been happening since the 1970s.  Each year, about 1,000 new single, duplex and townhomes are added to Calgary’s established communities.

Affordable Housing / Seniors housing

Most infill, multi-family projects are aimed at young professionals and empty nesters. Calgary’s single-family and duplex homes are geared for young families. Still, each year affordable infill housing projects for seniors and families are also completed. 

For example, in 2012, the Lions Club’s West Hillhurst project converted 24 tiny cottage homes next to the Bow River along Kensington Road at Crowchild Trail. First built in 1954, they were converted into an attractive complex with 90 modern homes for seniors.  

Last year, Habitat for Humanity’s Southern Alberta branch celebrated the opening of 10 new homes in Bowness.  Also last year, and also in Bowness, The Clayton, built by Jayman BUILT as result of the RESOLVE Campaign, providing 30 new homes for Calgarians.

Just last month, The City of Calgary celebrated the opening of 13 modular homes in Rosedale.  In Temple, Trinity Place Foundation of Alberta is busy constructing 120 new homes for low-income seniors. It’s on the former site of St. George’s Church at Temple Drive and 52 Street SE.

In Bridgeland/Riverside, Columbus Court, an affordable housing project designed by NORR architects and developed by Bishop O’Byrne Housing Association is under construction. This five storey building will create 104 new homes and join the Associations’ two other infill buildings – Columbus Manor and Columbus Place.  

Perhaps one of the most unique infill projects was ATCO Village. It’s a collaborative project between Homes for Heroes Foundation, the Mustard Seed and ATCO. This project has 15 tiny homes (275 square feet) at the corner of 36 Street and 8 Avenue SE in Forest Lawn.

Last Word

I’ve highlighted only a few of the many infill projects that show Calgary’s inner-city communities continue to thrive in the 21st Century.

Compared to Winnipeg, Hamilton or Edmonton, cities with comparable established communities, Calgary has been very successful in adding a diversity of new housing to its inner-city communities over the past 30+ years.