Residents in the southeast Calgary community of Fairvew have an inside joke. It’s one that’s turned into a quirky little bumper sticker.
They tell people the community they’re from and people ask: “Where’s Fairview?”
Should a massive new multi-use development come to fruition over the next quarter century, everyone in Calgary will know of Fairview.
Midtown Station is a sprawling, campus-like, mixed-use neighbourhood that’s been conceptualized for the community’s northwest corner.
It’s planned in a section currently cut off from the rest of the community by the LRT line.
Today, Calgarians might know the area as Fisher Park, a commercial / light industrial area a half a block east of Macleod Trail between Glenmore Trail and 71 Avenue S.
It’s a 30-acre parcel that, when fully built out, will have a proposed 24 buildings ranging from 1 storey to 42 storeys.
“It’s kind of consistent with the vision the city has for the Heritage Communities Local Area Plan they’re putting in place, which sees intensification over time, and implementing much better connectivity between the communities and the various workplaces and retail establishments,” said Stephen Shawcross, Director of Urban Planning for the IBI Group in Calgary, the consultants for the project.
“This looks at creating sort of a vibrant 24 seven urban village that is a mixed use development, with high density residential towers, mid-rise apartments, in a campus like setting, with convenience, specialty retail, some of the, what we call showcase industrial that’s there currently.”
Plans are for nearly 6,000 new residential units, 181,000 square feet of retail space and 223,000 square feet of office area. It will also include hotel space and community facilities.
“It creates a Midtown as they call it. A mixed use urban development in the heart of where there’s nothing like it in the city, but along an LRT line that we invested in decades ago,” said Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra.
“It’s finally payback on that investment.”
Infill LRT Midtown Station
One of the elements of the proposed design is the privately built infill LRT station. Midtown Station, as it’s been dubbed, would sit in the middle of Heritage and Chinook Stations.
The estimated $100 million cost would be taken on by the developer as a part of the project.
Carra called the idea “super intriguing.”
He said two years ago, the city studied the cost of building another end-of-line station versus an infill station. He said infill stations, like the proposed Midtown version, were cut from the original LRT as a cost-saving measure.
A new station would cost $250 million. The $100 million cost consists of $50 million for construction and then $50 million for trains.
“So, it’s a really cost-effective proposition if you have someone willing to partner with the city to do that,” he said.
A new station literally bridging Fairview with the Macleod Trail corridor is an interesting one, said Regan Klyn, president with the Fairview Community Association.
It’s one that comes with potential downside, though. And she was uncertain if people in the rest of the community would use it.
She said early concerns from area residents are around potential property crime associated with a nearby LRT station. That, along with potential parking issues.
“I think that there are a lot of pros and cons that will come with the overpass,” she said.
Klyn said that the tradeoff would be connection to the types of walkable businesses and services residents are wanting.
“Fairview, as a community, has often had sort of a wish list of businesses that we wish were, walkable from our neighborhood,” she said.
“I think that this development, and that pedestrian overpass, would make some of those wishes come true.”
She said, however, that many residents in the area may simply opt for the Centre Street or Heritage Drive exits. To get to the proposed station, commuters would have to navigate a circuitous route through the neighbourhood.
Community consultation begins
IBI had initial online community engagement with Fairview residents that ran from Sept. 8 to the end of the month.
Shawcross said he’s been doing major projects like these in Calgary for the past four decades. He said he’s never seen such a positive response to a new project. More than 80 per cent of responses to the initial plan have been positive he said.
“Our next step is to really meet with the community and see what kinds of, say recreational amenities and facilities they might like to see in the area,” Shawcross said.
Early suggestions are for something like an artificial ice rink or the like. But Shawcross said they’ve heard from the community that the discussion around area programming is an important one.
Klyn said the project is just starting to hit Fairview residents’ radar. They’ve only begun conversations with the greater Fairview community. Like many people ask “where’s Fairview”, Klyn said that most residents forget that Fisher Park is a part of the neighbourhood.
“It is like a fifth or a sixth of the neighborhood and yet we kind of always forget that it’s there,” she said.
“So, I think that in and of itself is sort of an interesting component about it is that it’s a little bit forgotten.”
Another aspect for the community is maintaining affordability. There’s a broad demographic in Fairview right now, Klyn said.
“As that sort of gentrification happens, does that change the affordability of Fairview for the people who want to stay?” Klyn asked.
“I think that’s an interesting question.”
The Macleod Trail Corridor
The city has undertaken a longer term look at Macleod Trail and its potential evolution. The idea is to evolve the busy north-south route into a multi-modal, mixed use corridor.
Right now, according to the city’s website, there’s no additional funding to continue with recommendation from their study.
Coun. Carra said that there was conversation around turning Macleod Trail into a sort of “Parisian boulevard with midrise buildings lining it.”
“You can throw a tremendous amount of money at the project of turning it into a Parisian boulevard and it’s not going to be a Parisian boulevard any time soon. Maybe never,” he said.
He said it could end up similar to 16 Avenue North, with very little redevelopment on it.
Carra said that instead of trying to create an urban boulevard along that strip, he said the streets next to Macleod could be where the redevelopment occurs.
“The idea is, well, why don’t you let Macleod Trail be Macleod Trail and let it have giant parking lots and stuff like that with a box,” he said.
“But when you get into the neighborhoods on either side, that’s where you create the main streets.”
The Midtown Station development is that kind of development with the parallel Fisher Road.
Shawcross said that those connections both to Macleod Trail and to the community of Fairview are critical.
“It’s part of what’s required in the entire area is better connectivity, east, west and north, south,” he said.
Timeline for the project
Fairview and nine other communities along the Macleod Trail corridor are included in the Heritage Communities Local Area Plan.
Shawcross said that plan needs to be in place before they can move ahead.
That’s expected to be in place by fall of 2021. They hope to move ahead with work in early 2022. Coun. Carra conceded that the city’s not being the most active partner on it. He said it takes a lot of bandwidth for a project this size.
What’s helped the process is that Cantana Investments owns all 30 acres. There’s no additional land assembly required. They have seven phases planned for development over the next 25 years. Businesses operating in the area will continue to operate as the area is redeveloped.
Shawcross said that despite its ambitious look, Midtown Station isn’t much different from any other master planned community.
“Really, it’s just a matter of crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s with the city as it relates to transportation, transit,” he said.
Klyn said they’ve never been a part of something on this development scale. Even now, they have the odd application for a secondary suite, or home extension, or carriage house garage.
The impact on the community’s character is something that remains to be seen. The “Berlin Wall” – the LRT line, as Klyn described it, will still divide the area.
“Does a development of this magnitude significantly impact the character of Fairview – because the LRT line is still going to be there,” she said.
“It’s a pretty big change for that area of the city, so it’ll be interesting to see if it comes to fruition.”