While most of the talk about the urban living renaissance in Calgary has revolved around the neighbourhoods of Bridgeland/Riverside, Eau Claire, East Village, Inglewood and Mission, Calgary’s warehouse district along 10th Avenue SW has been quietly flying under the radar. For decades, 10th Avenue has been the wrong side of the tracks from downtown; a no man’s land between downtown and trendy Uptown 17th.
10th Avenue 101
The heyday for 10th Avenue was in the early 20th century when it was lined with bustling warehouses that stored goods being shipped to Calgary by the Canadian Pacific Railway. For the first half of the 20th century, 10th Avenue served as the main distribution hub for all of southern Alberta. Gradually, this role eroded away with the shift to truck transportation and the north side became overflow parking for downtown office workers. Today it is home to two of Canada’s largest above ground parkades - City Centre Parkade, with 1530 stalls and Tower Parkade, with 1,398 stalls.
I expect few people realize the current renaissance in urban living in Calgary actually started on 10th Avenue in 1993. That was when the 1909 Hudson Bay warehouse building at the corner of 10th Avenue and 5th Street SW was converted into the Hudson Loft condos (Calgary’s first warehouse loft conversion).
Today, 10th Avenue, from Macleod Trail to 11th Street is in the midst of a mega makeover into a mixed-use street with new office, retail, restaurant, residential and social service developments that rivals what is happening in East Village, albeit without all the fanfare and $500+ million of public realm improvements (library, museum, parks, plazas, underpasses, pedestrian bridges, designer sidewalks).
Recent 10th Ave Developments
Strategic Group has approval to build a 32-storey mixed-use tower at the corner of 1st St. SE and 10th Avenue that will include 100,000 square feet of Class A office space on the bottom floors and 227 condo units above.
Kitty-corner is Aspen Properties’ 19-storey Palliser South office completed in 2009 on 10th Ave at Macleod Trail. The all-glass building’s strange upside down “L” shape was created by cantilevering the building overtop of the Tower Parkade, allowing the floor plates to increase in size from 10,785 square feet on the 3rd floor to 21,767 on the 19th. The shape of the building is further enhanced by the fact that the light green glass on the east façade cantilevers over the sidewalk. Designed by Calgary’s Gibbs Gage Architects, it is one of my favourite buildings in Calgary.
A few blocks further west is 1010 Centre, the Mustard Seed’s 12-storey, 224-unit apartment tower that opened in 2014 after much controversy about the potential negative impact it would have on the livability of the surrounding blocks. Time will tell if this is true.
Continuing westward, the south side of the 200 and 300 west blocks of 10th Avenue are the only blocks that have retained the warehouse character of 100 years ago with their timeless brick façades. Today they home to some of Calgary’s best bars, restaurants and retailers – Briggs Kitchen + Bar, Craft Beer Market, HiFi Club, National on 10th, Roche Bobois, Rodney’s Oyster House and Thai Sa-On.
Cross over 4th Street SW and you will discover the work of Centron Group, who single-handedly changed this block of 10th Avenue with two massive, horizontal, shiny glass office buildings from 4th to 5th Streets – Centre 10 (completed in 2013) and Place 10 (scheduled to open in 2017). Collectively, these buildings will add one million square feet of office space, enough for about 5,000 workers, as well as retail/restaurant spaces at street level for the likes of Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse.
Lamb Development Corp and Fortress Real Development are currently building the 31-storey, 6th and Tenth condo (named after the corner it is located on) that will have 230 units (about 400 new residents) right next to the busy and somewhat seedy Uptown Bottle Depot.
Construction has begun on GWL Realty Advisors’ mega makeover of the old Alberta Boot site on 10th Avenue west of 5th Street SW, right next to the tracks. When it is completed probably by 2018, it will include a block-long 4-storey podium of retail and restaurants with two towers, a 37-storey, 303-residential tower and a 33-storey, 390-room hotel.
Then there is Qualex Landmark(the unofficial king of the Beltline, having built more condos in the Beltline than any other builder) who is nearing completion of its sold-out 34-storey, 270-unit Mark on 10th condo tower at 8th Street and 10th Ave SW. This project not only includes street retail, but also a major public art work by internationally-acclaimed artist Douglas Coupland. Right next door sits WAM Development Group’s 440 unit, 17 and 34 storey residential complex, with a series of small retail/restaurant spaces at street level.
Last but not least, is Calgary Urban Project Society, which offers a variety of services to low income adults and families. It moved from its in 7th Avenue SW to its current home (three times larger) on 10th Avenue at 9th Street SW., in 2012, as a result of the Bow tower development.
10th Ave Improvements
Complementing these developments, 10th Avenue is getting two refurbished underpasses at First and and 8th Streets SW. that will provide enhanced pedestrian connections to the downtown, 7th Ave LRT corridor and Bow River parks and pathways.
What is also great about living on 10th Ave is that there are four grocery stores easily accessible – Sunterra Market at Keynote, Safeway, Midtown Co-op and Community Natural Foods. It will be a long time before East Village, Kensington or any other Calgary community can match that. An added bonus is 10th Ave is home to MEC, which as one of my outdoor enthusiast friends likes to say, “If MEC doesn’t have it, I don’t need it.”
Urban living is all about diversity - the mixing of people of different social/economic groups all on the same block enjoying an array of different activities. It is about sharing the sidewalks, back alleys and parks. It is about embracing the differences that define us as a city, rather than letting those differences divide us.
Many in the past might have questioned, “Who would want to live, work and/or play next to the railway tracks?” While others questioned, “Who would want to live next to the Uptown Bottle Depot, Calgary Urban Projects Society (CUPS) or the Mustard SEED homeless shelter?”
The answer: thousands of Calgarians are excited by these new urban living opportunities being created in the Beltline, Eau Claire, East Village, The Bridges, Inglewood or Kensington. By 2020, 10th Avenue alone could have over 2,500 new people calling it home.
Note: An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald titled: "Warehouse District is being revitalized" January 2, 2016.