While 17 Avenue SW is no stranger to being shut down to traffic, the Business Improvement Area (BIA) is toying with the idea of shutting it down for a bit of fun.
The BIA posted a survey asking if 17th Avenue SW should go car-free for pedestrian-friendly spaces. The survey was sent out to businesses and residents in the Beltline that subscribe to the 17th Ave newsletter. Otherwise, it is available on the 17th Ave SW Instagram and presently has no end date.
Tulene Steiestol, executive director for 17th Ave BIA said that they’d heard public conversations and recommendations for improving 17th Avenue’s pedestrian areas as it grows busier each year. Although the survey is only the initial step towards a bigger project, Steiestol said that it was important to start conversations.
“We thought there’s no time better than now, we’re in the height of our summer season, it’s busy for businesses, it’s busy just in Calgary in general…now that we’re kind of in the in the full swing of summer, let’s chat with the community and just get a sense of what people think,” said Steiestol.
The survey has received just under 700 responses with several hundred comments according to Steiestol. Moving forward, depending on the results of the survey, the BIA plans to continue discussions with businesses to see gather more insight into how to better improve the area.
“The next step, because we are responsible for the business corridor, is to really take a deeper dive and figure out from the businesses what it is that they want to see,” said Steiestol.
Closure would have a big impact on area activations: Coun. Walcott
Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said that shutting down the avenue to vehicle traffic on certain weekends would make a significant impact on the activity along 17th Avenue SW during the summer.
“The Beltline does not have many open spaces that are easily activated,” said Walcott, “a pedestrian realm like this is a space where people can come down to for a destination.”
Many businesses along 17th Avenue SW said a traffic closure would only add value to the street.
“I think 17th is a summer street and I think as soon as we opened it up, it was just more people walking in, just more faces that we don’t see all winter…I think that would only maybe add value,” said Matt Ostrander, general manager at Porch.
While many are in favour of the closure, several considerations still need to be reviewed before steps towards a closure are taken. According to 2019 traffic data, 17 Avenue SW sees between 11,000 and 14,000 vehicles on an average weekday.
“We’re gonna have to work really closely with our ward councillor, Courtney Walcott, as well as the city at large because there’s everything from mobility, traffic and even the parking authority that we need to work to be collaborating with,” said Steiestol.
Steiestol said that the possibility of a car-free 17th Avenue SW is in the early stages. There are no specified deadlines currently. However, Steiestol said that an achievable goal would be to have a pilot of some sort in the summer of 2024.
“All sides are really being evaluated to make sure that we’re making a decision that benefits the community, especially the business community,” said Steiestol.