While most of Calgary’s established communities within a 10 km radius of downtown have been enjoying a renaissance with new infill residential developments, the one I find the most interesting is Altadore. As a result of several house/ dog sitting gigs over the past few years, I have wandered the parks, streets and alleys of Altadore developing a greater appreciation for the community’s diversity.
I love the little niche ‘50s shopping centres with their “mom and pop” businesses along 16th Street with names like Moon Convenience. Bell’s Café, is a popular meeting place for retirees, as well as the “young and restless.” My Favorite Ice Cream Shoppe corner has been a destination for my family for 20+ years - now it has a great neighbourhood pub and spa.
Though I miss Casablanca Video, there are still lots of bohemian shops like Inner Sleeve record store and the Mexican grocery store. There is considerable more diversity of shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, health, fitness and other services in Altadore than first meets the eye.
Family Fun For Everyone (including canines)
River Park is an oasis for humans and canines alike. I am always amazed at the hundreds of people (of all ages) and dogs who use this park seven days a week, no matter what the weather. I would bet this is one of the most well used parks in the city. Sandy Beach is another hidden oasis in a city blessed with over 5,200 parks.
It also has a diversity of schools - private schools like Rundle College Elementary School and Master’s Academy & College (K to Grade 12), four public high schools – three public ones (Central Memorial, Career and Technology Centre, Alternative High School) and one Catholic (Bishop Carroll High School), as well as one special public school (Emily Follensbee School for children with multiple complex learning needs). Altadore is also home to the Flames Community Arenas, the Military Museums and several churches.
16th St. SW: A New Main Street?
While the City of Calgary identified 24 opportunities to create or enhance main street development across the city as part of their Main Street Program, there are many good sites not on the list. For example, 16th St SW is a hidden gem with its two mini retail blocks, a multi-school campus, a church, Kiwanis Park and the lucky #13 bus route to downtown.
The 14 blocks of 16th Street SW (from 50th Ave to 34th Ave) have the potential to be a bit of a community hub by being a more diverse, pedestrian oriented street with more low rise apartments, condos and office buildings, mixed with retail, cafés, restaurants and offices for personal and medical services. Three existing vacant redevelopment sites could add to the mix of housing and commercial uses.
The huge school campus could be a great mixed-use redevelopment site. Do we really need two playgrounds side-by-side and duplicate playing fields – what a waste of space! Can’t we share? If we want to be innovative, this would be a great site to integrate schools with community gyms, seniors housing for Altadorians who want to retire in their community and perhaps starter condos for GenXers who have grown up in Altadore or perhaps the new teachers at the schools. We have to start thinking how we can diversify our established communities to accommodate more activities.
I recently learned Brookfield Residential (one of North America’s largest home builders, headquartered in Calgary) has acquired a couple of properties along 16th Street for innovative residential development. “Altadore 36” will replace 6-single family homes with 34 townhomes and 28 penthouse flats at the corner of 16th Street and 36th Avenue SW. While it sounds like a lot of density, the building is only three-floors high, not much higher than the many mega, multi-million dollar single-family mansions already in the community.
Architect Jesse Hindle (who lives in the community) has created two L-shaped buildings that interlock to allow for townhomes on both the street and interior courtyard. From the street, the flat-roofed, clean edge, Frank Lloyd Wright-like design is synergistic with many of the community’s new contemporary single-family homes. The exterior is a timeless sandstone brick that recalls Calgary’s history as the Sandstone City. Perhaps the best news is prices will begin at $300,000 for the flats, which means young professionals can afford to live in this popular community where new single-family homes start at one million. It will be interesting to see what Brookfield has planned for their other site at 48th Ave and 16th Street SW. Together, they will add some much needed diversity to housing options in the community.
Need more offices
To be a model 21st century urban community, Altadore needs more commercial development - small office buildings integrated along 16th Street, as well as 33rd and 34th Avenues.
Ronmor’s, The Odeon, (northeast corner of 33rd Ave and 20th St.) with Blush Lane Organic Grocers on the main floor and three floors of office space is exactly what Marda Loop needs. It complements Ronmor’s Shopper’s Drug Mart condos complex across the street. Perhaps in another five years one of the other corners of will be developed - both are ripe for redevelopment.
I love the charm of the shops and offices in old and new houses along the north side of 34th Avenue SW. The houses on the east half of the block are ready for redevelopment. I hope whomever the developer is they will continue creating spaces for boutique retailers and offices in buildings with house-like design.
The redevelopment of established communities is critical if Calgary is going to achieve its goal of 80,000 new homes in established communities by 2040. However, creating attractive vibrant communities is more than just building four to six-storey condos with retail, cafes and restaurants at street level. It is not just about upgrading the parks, playgrounds, sidewalks and street furniture. It is also about adding workplaces on strategic sites for small businesses like health, fitness and financial.
A little residential here, a little retail there with some office integrated here and there is exactly what will transform Altadore into a model 21st century community.
By Richard White, January 28, 2015
Where is Altadore?
Altadore’s eastern boundary is the Elbow River and 14th Street SW, with the western boundary being Crowchild Trail. It extends north to south from 33rd to 50th Avenues. It includes the very successful Garrison Woods redevelopment (formerly Calgary Canadian Forces base) by Canada Lands Corporation – worthy of its own future blog.