By Richard White, February 8, 2014
Just as Calgary’s urban footprint gets larger every year, so does our inner-city urban playground keep expanding.
Over the past few years, it has skipped west over Crowchild Trail to include places the cluster of shops at street level of the Casel condo building (corner of 17th Avenue and 24th Street). Cassis Bistro, J. Webb Wine Merchant, Market 17 and Vie Café combine to create a little oasis of European urbanism in Cowtown.
Further west and north, at Bow Trail and Spruce Dr. SW., Intergulf’s Westgate Park project consists of three high-rise condos – Encore, Brava and Ovation. Together, they add 480 new condo units across the street from the Westgate underground LRT station - an area destined to become a new urban village over the next 20 years.
Stroll a little further north down Spruce Drive SW, past the City of Calgary’s Wildflower Arts Centre and you will come upon the inconspicuous Spruce Cliff Shopping Centre (SCSC). One of those little mini outdoor strip malls (about 10 retail spaces) that were all the rage in new communities developed back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Today, these spaces, because of their affordability (the franchise stores are not interested in them as they are off the beaten path), are becoming incubators for local entrepreneurs.
Spruce Cliff Shopping Centre Renaissance
The Spruce Cliff Shopping Centre (SCSC) is quietly evolving into a bobo spot (bohemian/bourgeois) with tenants such as Louche Milieu, a lovely upscale mid century modern vintage home accessories and furniture store that has already moved from a teeny tiny space in the Centre into its new much larger space. Louche Milieu has become the “go to” place for designers in Calgary looking for mid-century modern pieces.
It is a curious name as “louche” is a French term for decadent, flashy, sketchy, dubious, shady and disreputable and “milieu” means an environment or setting. There is nothing shady or sketchy about Louche Milieu and it certainly isn’t decadent. If you are into vintage it is a “must visit.” Unfortunately, it is opened very limited hours at present Friday and Saturday 12:30 to 6 pm or by appointment.
The old Louche Milieu space was quickly filled by Little Monday Café (open for only seven weeks at the time of writing), which serves up tastey homemade muffins and cookies, along with full range of caffeine drinks. It is very popular with young families as evidenced by the chalkboard artwork.
Further along the mall is People Food kitchen that makes only three things – a family of Lama bars for golfers (a good story, which will have to wait for another blog), ehpizza crusto and know meat patties (this is not a typo). You can find their food at places like Amaranth, Bite Groceteria and Market 17.
The Centre is also Wolf Willow Studio that offers workshops and classes in everything from mosaics to wreath making for kids and kids at heart. A contractor, a neighbourhood pub and the local politician's office round out the Centre’s tenants.
The renaissance of this mid-century strip mall is just another example of the benefits associated with many new condo and infill housing developments in Calgary’s established communities. The new residents bring new dollars, new ideas and new energy to old communities in need of fertilization.