Residents in the northwest Calgary community of West Hillhurst are concerned that a proposed development will remove a popular pathway frequently used by students.
The developer, however, said it won’t be lost. In fact, they hope to enhance the corridor.
The issue was brought to light on June 9, by members of the West Hillhurst Community Association transportation committee. They worry that the development, a mixed-use project with commercial on the street level and residences above, will have a parkade entrance that conflicts with a city-owned pedestrian laneway.
Many students depend on the route, affectionately known as either the lilac pathway, Tinkerbell pathway, or the secret pathway, between 19 Street and 18A Street NW near 2 Avenue. They use it to get to Queen Elizabeth School.
“This laneway is cherished by residents who want to retain it as part of the West Hillhurst community pedestrian infrastructure,” read an info sheet put from the community association.
There is signage posted in the area noting the conversion of the pathway into a parkade entrance, with traffic directed to 18A Street and 3 Avenue NW.
The West Hillhurst Traffic Committee wants the laneway protected as pedestrian only infrastructure.
Losing a piece of the community
West Hillhurst resident Glenna Healey said that this new development could eliminate one of the community’s natural landmarks.
“The problem is that one or two people who are developers are making decisions for this whole community and our community feels as though we’re not being heard,” said Healey
“When we have a little sweetheart of a little laneway that’s lined with lilac trees, that’s just a serene little walkway and it’s going to be chipped away for vehicle access. The laneway is only 19 feet across and it wouldn’t be viable for traffic to pass through there.”
Healey the development requires more community engagement and encourages residents of West Hillhurst to show their support.
“I would just encourage everybody to use their voice. I think the strongest thing we can do is speak our mind calmly and objectively,” Healey said.
The issue has also attracted the attention of one of the Ward 7 candidates. Erin Waite issued a press release on the matter Wednesday.
“The proposed project on 19th street NW is an over-height development that removes a pedestrian corridor. This pathway is exactly the kind of small connector space that keeps neighborhoods walkable and ensures neighbors are able to connect with each other,” said Waite.
The transportation committee’s fact sheet said keeping the pathway aligns with Calgary’s pedestrian strategy. They believe it’s also the safest route for children. The alternative is to use 2 Avenue NW where there is increased development traffic and “sloping driveway curb cuts.”
Working with community members
The project is being led by Stirling Karlsen with local company Innurskape Projekts. Karlsen believes the intent of the project is misunderstood. He wants West Hillhurst residents involved to incorporate as much community feedback as possible.
“I am trying to get the word out. I’ve created a website with some information to let people know about it. I will also talk to all of the area residents and at least drop off a flyer if I can’t catch them at home,” he said.
Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell said it’s really early on in the development process. Very little community engagement has been done to this point. She said it’s quite a complicated site that’s mid-block, adjacent to a pedestrian corridor. Plus, 19 Street NW has a pedestrian priority, so front driveways don’t really work.
“I would say it’s more than just a land use exercise. This needs to be a design exercise,” Farrell said.
“With a creative design team, and the right goals they can do something really exciting. And that’s what’s expected here.”
A better pedestrian corridor?
Karlsen also said that he has no intention of destroying or removing any of the pathways in that area. Rather Karlsen seeks to enhance the area with new additions. He didn’t provide specifics on what improvements would be made in the corridor.
“I can improve it and make it a much more enjoyable pathway than what is currently there. There are no plans to improve that area in the next decade if at all. So what I’m proposing is an improvement,” Karlsen said.
Karlsen believes that the project will bring joy to residents of the area. He wants to see the revitalization of West Hillhurst.
“People will grow to love it, it’s just change,” he said.
“These houses and buildings are 80 years old so something needs to happen and the city needs to evolve.”