Calgary's Design District Revisited

After spending a week hanging out in Palm Spring’s Design District, I wondered what happened to Calgary’s fledgling Beltline Design District along 11th and 10th Avenue between 4th and 14th Street SW.

I realize several key players have left – Domicile, Robert Swift, BoConcept and Maria Tomais. And soon F2 and Industrial Element will also have to leave to make way for a new residential development at the corner of 11th Ave and 11th St. SW. 

Yes there are still a few design-oriented shops like Banbury Lane, Chintz & Company, Interior Living, Kits Objects, Pomp & Circumstance and Shaun Ford & Co still operating, but the district is becoming more diverse. 

Mark on 10th, shouts out "this is a design district." 

Mark on 10th, shouts out "this is a design district." 

Kit is like a mini furniture museum.

Kit is like a mini furniture museum.

Shop

Chris Cran at Trepanier Baer Gallery. 

Chris Cran at Trepanier Baer Gallery. 

The 700 block of 11th Ave SW with its cluster of commercial galleries - Herringer Kiss, New Zones and Paul Kuhn creates a “Gallery Block” at the heart of the Calgary's design district.

The Gallery Block is also home to Metrovino and Cookbook Company (over 2,000 cookbooks, largest selection in Western Canada) and Brulee Patisserie, all have been anchors for over 20 years.

Other art galleries in the area include Trepanier Baer Gallery, Webster Galleries, Gibson Fine Art and Latitude Art Gallery and VivianeArt.  Perhaps it should become the Gallery District?

Camera Store always has a great urban buzz. 

Camera Store always has a great urban buzz. 

Add in other eclectic shops like Heritage Posters & Music, Stuff (men’s fashions and accessories) two piano stores. 

Add in The Camera Store (I often pop in to check out the books) and you have the makings of funky pedestrian district.  

There are two new micro retailers (100 square feet) Bezel House (men’s watches) and Kokeldama! (moss ball plants) tucked away at the back of The Audio Room and Stuff respectively.

Other anchor retailers include Mountain Equipment Coop, Atmosphere, The Source, The Bike Shop and Speedmatrix.

Mountain Equipment Coop is a huge two storey outdoor store. If MEC doesn't have it you don't need it! 

Mountain Equipment Coop is a huge two storey outdoor store. If MEC doesn't have it you don't need it! 

Love the interplay of the old and new urban design sensibilities in this building. 

Love the interplay of the old and new urban design sensibilities in this building. 

Play

A vibrant district needs a variety of restaurants, bars and cafes.  New condos have brought new amenities like Sucre Patisserie, in Mark on 10th and Donna Mac in Versus.  

The Concorde Group’s Bridgette restaurant, bar and lounge is a perfect fit, with its mid-century modern design located in an old warehouse building.

The Concorde Group’s Bridgette restaurant, bar and lounge is a perfect fit, with its mid-century modern design located in an old warehouse building.

Beer Revolution, Bonterra Tratttoria and its sister Posto Pizza and Bar provide an excellent line up of places to eat and relax. REGRUB is the district’s funky “go to” burger place.

Mikey's on 12th offers live music every night and hosts a popular blues jam on Saturday afternoons. 

Mikey's on 12th offers live music every night and hosts a popular blues jam on Saturday afternoons. 

The area is also home to two live music venues – Mikey’s on 12th and the Commonwealth Bar & Stage.

And for those whose idea of play is working out Heaven’s Fitness has some the best classes and equipment in the city. 

And yogis have Yoga Passage.  

 

REGRUB's metal barrel booths reflects the shop owner's quirky sense of design.

REGRUB's metal barrel booths reflects the shop owner's quirky sense of design.

Live

The recently completed Qualex-Landmark’s Mark on 10th, Lamb Development Corp’s 10th and 6th, ONE Properties’ Versus, Intergulf-Cidex’s Aura I and II and Statesman Group’s The Metropolitan have added 1,500 new homes to the Design District.  And, they will soon be joined by 33-storey 360-room Residence Inn by Marriott (largest in Canada) and its sister 300-unit residential tower.

The district also includes three grocery stores – Safeway, Midtown Calgary Co-op and Community Natural Foods. As for schools, there is even the Connaught elementary school nearby and Western Canada High School is within walking distance.  

The district has a walkscore of 98, making it one of the best places in the City to “live, work and play.”

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New Name

The district deserves a higher profile as one of Calgary’s hip pedestrian streets.  Back in the ‘80s, 11th Avenue SW was nicknamed “Electric Avenue” for the lively nightlife generated by the plethora of bars and nightclubs along the avenue.   Today, it has a more eclectic mix of shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs.

Perhaps it is time for a new name, one reflecting the new identity and captures the imagination of Calgarians and tourists. In many cities, the area would be nicknamed SODO, for its south downtown location.  

FYI: HIPville has been taken. It is the name of new Business Improvement Area (BIA) for the Highland Industrial Park. It will be interesting to see how the collaboration of those businesses becomes a catalyst for development.

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Last Word

Hmmm….perhaps the area would benefit if the businesses banded together and formed a their own BIA. Certainly, 17th Avenue, 4th Street, Kensington Inglewood and Marda Loop have all thrived as a result of the marketing and lobbying efforts of their respective BIAs.

Note: An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald's New Condos section, Saturday February 17, 2018. 

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

Calgary's Rail Trail Stroll

Calgary's 10th Avenue Renaissance

Importance of BIAs

 

Calgary's Coolest Neighbourhoods: Inglewood

Locals and visitors often ask me “what is Calgary’s coolest neighbourhood?”  My reply is, “It depends on what you like to do.” 

Just for fun I thought I would do a series of blogs on what makes Calgary’s City Centre neighbourhoods (Beltline, Bridgeland, East Village, Eau Claire, Downtown West, Downtown Core, Inglewood, Kensington and Mission) all cool depending on your perspective.

You know a neighbourhood is cool when you find kids playing on a mini plaza in front of retail store along its Main Street.  This is 9th Ave aka Atlantic Ave in Inglewood. 

You know a neighbourhood is cool when you find kids playing on a mini plaza in front of retail store along its Main Street.  This is 9th Ave aka Atlantic Ave in Inglewood. 

What makes a cool neighbourhood?

My template of what I think are the key elements of a cool neighbourhood is:

  1. Festivals/Events
  2. Shops
  3. Cafés
  4. Restaurants
  5. Art/Architecture
  6. Parks/Plaza/Pathways
  7. Fitness/Recreation
  8. Pubs/Clubs/Beer
  9. Fun/Funky/Quirky
This is one of two barns that still exist in Inglewood - how cool is that. 

This is one of two barns that still exist in Inglewood - how cool is that. 

Inglewood

Inglewood’s boundaries are difficult to share in words as you can see by this illustration from the City of Calgary’s website.  It is one of Calgary’s oldest communities and was once known as Brewery Flats as it was home to the mammoth Calgary Brewing and Malting Company site which is now closed and waiting for redevelopment. Given the rise in popularity of craft beer around the world, Inglewood might want to use Brewery Flats as part of its branding.

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Festivals/Events

Inglewood is home to not one but three signature events every summer.  The Inglewood Night Market will take place on June 8, July 13, August 10 and September 14 this year.  The Calgary Fringe Festival takes place from Aug 3 to 11, while Sunfest happens Saturday August 24.

Shops

Inglewood has an ever-changing array of eclectic shops from exquisite Circa Vintage Art Glass to bibliophile’s Fair’s Fair Books’ with its 7,000 used books. 

Fair's Fair and Galleria share a building on the western edge of Inglewood. 

Fair's Fair and Galleria share a building on the western edge of Inglewood. 

But wait. It gets better.

Two "must visits" are Crown Surplus store where you can find some very interesting outdoor and tactical gear (maybe even a surplus military tent) and Recordland where you can hunt for that elusive vintage record you have always wanted (one of the largest collections of used records in North America.) 

Recordland is a "must visit" for audiophiles. 

Recordland is a "must visit" for audiophiles. 

Tea Trader's has the charm of an old world warehouse.

Tea Trader's has the charm of an old world warehouse.

Teetotallers will want to check out Tea Traders’ large selection of teas that they import directly to Calgary their world headquarters.

Foodies won’t want to miss The Silk Road either for its huge collection of spices, herbs and seasonings from around the world.

Knifewear offers Canada’s largest selection of Japanese knives - $2,500 is their most expensive knife; it is a work of art.  And, Kevin Kent (aka El Presidente) is one of North America’s leading authorities on knives.

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Kent of Inglewood (El Presidente’s other store) is a walk back in time, as not only is the building over 100 years old, but the products are a “blast from the past.” 

This is a “man’s man” shop where their “passion is classic shaving equipment, cocktails, axes, and all things fantastic.”

It even has an in-house barbershop.

When in Inglewood you must stop in “espy” women and men’s fashion boutique.  They are well known for their selection of denim jeans (1,000 jeans in stock) and for their professional denim fitting i.e. they are 100% honest about what looks good on you and what doesn’t!

The espy experience is not to be missed.
Cira Vintage Art Glass with its mid century modern glass pieces is a one of kind gallery in Canada. It is an engaging kaleidoscope of colour and light.  Great for souvenir or gift shopping. 

Cira Vintage Art Glass with its mid century modern glass pieces is a one of kind gallery in Canada. It is an engaging kaleidoscope of colour and light.  Great for souvenir or gift shopping. 

Now doesn't this look tasty....

Now doesn't this look tasty....

I really wanted this clothes peg bench at Le Belle Arti, but I don't have a house big enough for it.  Wouldn't it be great in a children's playground? 

I really wanted this clothes peg bench at Le Belle Arti, but I don't have a house big enough for it.  Wouldn't it be great in a children's playground? 

Cafés

Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar, opened in 2012, has quickly established itself as the Inglewood hangout spot, not only for the espresso and wine but for its live music featuring local musicians every Friday and Saturday evening. 

The new kid on the block - ROSSO Coffee Roasters, named the ATB Small Business of the Year in 2017, by Calgary Chamber of Commerce is also worth a visit.

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Restaurants

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While restaurants come and go, Rouge Restaurant in the historic 1891 Cross House has been rated one of Calgary’s top 10 restaurants since 2001.

In fact, in 2010, it was ranked #60 in the world by San Pellegrino Awards. 

In 2014, Michael Noble (one of Canada’s leading chefs) opened The Nash and Off Cut Bar in the historic National Hotel (1907).   And in 2016, Sal Howell (one of Calgary’s best restaurant owners) reopened the Deane House (1906) next to Fort Calgary complete with an edible garden. 

If you are into dining in historical settings, Inglewood is definitely your place.

If you are looking for an authentic Calgary dining experience, you can’t do much better than Spolumbo’s family restaurant (owned by three former Calgary Stampeders players) using old world family recipes to create the perfect sausages. 

No community can be cool without a “go to” pizza place. In Inglewood’s that would be Without Papers Pizza.

Funny Story: Kevin Kent a former chef started his Japanese knife importing business to sell knives to Calgary chefs our of his backpack.  It become so popular he opened up a store in Inglewood, which also became successful and today he has Knifewear stores in Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver.  Some of the knives are like works of art, that you could hang on the wall, which in fact he as done in Inglewood store. 

Funny Story: Kevin Kent a former chef started his Japanese knife importing business to sell knives to Calgary chefs our of his backpack.  It become so popular he opened up a store in Inglewood, which also became successful and today he has Knifewear stores in Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver.  Some of the knives are like works of art, that you could hang on the wall, which in fact he as done in Inglewood store. 

Art/Architecture

Inglewood is Calgary’s live music district, home to the Blues Can, Ironwood Stage & Grill (both have music 7days a week) and Festival Hall (operated by the Calgary Folk Festival).  

Tim Williams, winner of the 2014 International Blues Competition for best solo/duo and best guitarist, hosts a blues jam every Saturday (no cover) at the Blues Can.

The Blues Can has just the right amount of grit to be an authentic blues bar.

The Blues Can has just the right amount of grit to be an authentic blues bar.

The Garry Theatre aka Ironwood Stage & Grill offers everything from blues jams to Big Band brunches.  

The Garry Theatre aka Ironwood Stage & Grill offers everything from blues jams to Big Band brunches.  

Calgary International Folk Festival's Festival Hall. 

Calgary International Folk Festival's Festival Hall. 

Inglewood is home to the Esker Foundation/Contemporary Art Gallery, a privately funded, non-commercial, free gallery that curates three exhibitions per year – fall, winter and spring/summer. Challenging yet accessible, they are accompanied by educational programs and publications.

It is on the third floor of the Atlantic Avenue Art Block, an architectural work of art in itself with its wavy roof and how it integrates the historic red brick warehouse architecture with contemporary urban design. 

Esker Foundation Art Gallery is a "must see" when you are in Inglewood. (photo credit: screen shot from website)

Esker Foundation Art Gallery is a "must see" when you are in Inglewood. (photo credit: screen shot from website)

Other art galleries in the neighbourhood include Galleria, Van Ginkel Art Gallery, Inglewood Fine Arts and Collector’s Gallery.   And, just a short walk up 12th St SE under the rail tracks lies the Artpoint Gallery and Studios Society with its three galleries and 23 studios.

History buffs will love walking along Inglewood’s New Street and you will discover a charming mix of heritage and contemporary homes.  One of the reasons Calgary’s City Center neighbourhoods are so vibrant is the hundreds of new infill homes being built every year.

Link: Calgary is the Infill Capital of North America

Just a few of the historic homes in Inglewood.

Just a few of the historic homes in Inglewood.

Parks/Plazas/Pathways

With the northern boundary of Inglewood being the Bow River, Inglewood has a lovely walking and cycling pathway to downtown, St. Patrick’s Island, the Calgary Zoo, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Harvie Passage. 

Inglewood is also home to Calgary’s original Main Street, aka 9th Avenue (as it is now called) aka Atlantic Avenue (its original name). The three blocks from 11th St to 14th St SE is a charming collection of early 20th century red brick buildings that house an eclectic array of shops today.   

Inglewood is also home to Bow Passage Overlook artwork by Lorna Jordan located along the Bow River pathway at the Harvie Passage where the Bow River takes a sharp turn south.  This large artwork looks like a typical log jam along the shore of the Bow River, except it has been carefully constructed so you can walk up to the outlook viewing platform or explore and sit amongst the rocks and rectangular man-made logs. 

The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is a delightful place to meander, reflect and take photos.

The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is a delightful place to meander, reflect and take photos.

Inglewood is home to a small art park at the corner of 9th Ave & 8th St SE across from the Dean House. 

Inglewood is home to a small art park at the corner of 9th Ave & 8th St SE across from the Dean House. 

Fitness/Recreation

For those looking for adventurous water sports you can float, canoe or kayak on the Bow River.  Harvie Passage is currently closed but will reopen in this summer (it was severely damaged in the 2013 flood) is one of the best urban kayaking spots in North America with channels for beginners and experts.

Lawn bowling in Calgary dates back to the late 1800s and is enjoying a resurgence today. The patch of grass at the corner of 8th Ave and 12th St. SE has been home to the Inglewood Lawn Bowling Club since 1946.  Don’t be surprised if you see a bunch of hipsters lawn bowling as you walk by.  And yes you can work up a thirst lawn bowling.

Heads Up: Watch out for cyclists as 8th Ave SE can be a busy cycling street.
A typical summer evening of lawn bowling in Inglewood. 

A typical summer evening of lawn bowling in Inglewood. 

The Bow Passage Overlook, in Pearce Estate Park, by Lorna Jordan offers a spectacular view of the Bow River with lots of places to sit and climb. 

The Bow Passage Overlook, in Pearce Estate Park, by Lorna Jordan offers a spectacular view of the Bow River with lots of places to sit and climb. 

Pubs/Clubs/Beer

In addition, the Blues Can and Ironwood, Inglewood is home to one of Calgary’s best pubs -  The Hose & Hound Neighbourhood Pub located in a 1906 firehouse.  

Inglewood is also home to two of Calgary’s best craft breweries. Cold Garden Beverage Company Tasting Room since January 2017 has become a popular place for locals to chill, as has High Line Brewery that opened in December 2016. .

Fun/Funky/Quirky Factor

The Nest is a funky, 500-square foot meeting space that not only looks like a nest but it is suspended from the roof in the middle of the main gallery space of the Esker Contemporary Art Gallery.  Very cool!

Not only is Nerd Roller Skates a quirky niche shop that specializes in roller derby skates and equipment, is also the hub for Calgary’s roller derby community.

And the long standing Friday Night Circles of Rhythm drum circle at the Inglewood Community Hall regularly attracts over 100 participants (no experience needed, they supply the drums, perfect for everyone from 5 to 95). Drop-in are welcome.

If you have a chance you must experience Carly’s Angels the riotous drag show in the quaint Lolita’s Lounge that has been entertaining Calgarians and visitors for 10 years.  Some shows sell out 4 to 8 weeks in advance and no minors allowed as it can get more than a little raunchy.

Last Word

Inglewood has just the right mix of old and new, highbrow and lowbrow things to see and do.  No wonder Inglewood was crowned “Canada’s Greatest Neighbourhood” by the Canadian Institute of Planners in 2014 - and it has only gotten better since then. 

The ultra chic new AVLI on Atlantic condo (currently under construction) designed by Calgary’s own Jeremy Sturgess could be just what makes Inglewood not only one of Calgary’s coolest neighbourhoods, but North America’s.

Note: This is the first in a series of blogs examining Calgary’s City Centre Neighbourhoods.

Note: My apologies to Calgary’s 200+ other neighbourhoods. While you may have a cool park or playground, a great recreation centre, maybe even a lake with a beach, or a few special shops, you don’t have the history and diversity of walkable things to see and do that makes for a cool urban neighbourhood from a tourist’s perspective. And after all, this is an every day tourist blog. That being said, I am open to changing my mind. So feel free to contact me and tell me why you think another neighbourhood(s) should be on my list of cool Calgary Neighbourhoods. 

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On-It: Calgary Regional Partnership's Legacy

When I first heard (October 2016) that the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) had negotiated an agreement with SOUTHLAND Transportation Ltd and several communities south of Calgary to pilot a commuter transit service, I immediately thought, “wow this is forward thinking.” 

As a member of the advisory board for the Richard Parker Professorship in Metropolitan Growth and Change, I am keenly aware of the importance of regional transit as part of any long-term strategic tourism and economic development initiatives.  Colleen Shepherd, the CRP’s Executive Director also sits on the advisory board and we have had numerous discussions about CRP’s leadership role in managing the growth of the Calgary region from a  different perspectives.

With much fanfare Colleen Shepherd (brown jacket) and others launched On-It Regional Transit in October 2016. 

With much fanfare Colleen Shepherd (brown jacket) and others launched On-It Regional Transit in October 2016. 

Love Pilot Projects

I am a big fan of pilot projects vs. the “paralysis of analysis” that often happens in the public sector.  You can do numerous market studies, look at “best practices” in other cities and survey the public about what they want (or rather what they think they want) but eventually you have to test your vision in the real world. 

To me, On-It’s two-year pilot was an appropriate timeframe to understand the demand, make adjustments, re-test the market and then make a decision regarding the current demand for a niche transit service for our region’s southern communities.

I was also pleased Southland Transportation was part of the On-It partnership, as they would bring a different “value for money” perspective to the pilot from the municipalities.  

I also thought the CPR was wise to launch On-It with a comprehensive website, an on-line ticketing reservation system and luxury coaches giving the pilot every opportunity to succeed. 

But wait, the CRP wasn’t done yet.

Their entrepreneurial and opportunistic spirit resulted in them teaming up with Parks Canada, and the towns of Banff, Canmore and Cochrane to offer a Calgary/Banff weekend transit service last summer.   

The Calgary/Banff service turned out to be wildly successful (in part due to Canada 150’s free park admission) with sold out buses starting in the second week of operation and by the end of the summer several buses were sold out each day.

Ettore Iannacito, Regional Transit Program Manager, Calgary Regional Partnership was the master-mind behind On-It.

Ettore Iannacito, Regional Transit Program Manager, Calgary Regional Partnership was the master-mind behind On-It.

Private Sector now in the driver’s seat

I was not surprised to learn the voluntary Calgary Regional Partnership made up of 11 municipalities in the Calgary region is winding down its operations, as it has been known for a while, that the Provincial Government was creating something called the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB). What we didn’t know was what its mandate would be. 

Turns out the CMRB will take on most - but not all - of the CRP’s roles and responsibilities for growth management in the Calgary region.

One of the responsibilities the new CMRB isn’t mandated to take on is regional transit.  Rather than let the On-It pilot and all of taxpayers investments just disappear, Shepherd worked with her Board and the SOUTHLAND Transportation executives, to transition ownership of the On-It brand, operations, research and collateral materials to SOUTHLAND Transportation Ltd.

SOUTHLAND has agreed to:

  • Merge the On-It south leg pilot into its own commuter service which will lead to some minor modifications.
  • Negotiate with Parks Canada, Banff and Canmore to operate a Calgary/Banff service again this summer and perhaps even expand it to other months. (If I were a betting man, my money would be on YES there will be Calgary/Banff weekend bus this summer.)
  • Evaluate with Strathmore and Chestermere Council's the option to pilot a commuter service for those two communities.

In addition, SOUTHLAND will also be rebranding its direct to downtown Calgary service from Cochrane and Okotoks with the On-It brand and look for ways to merge all of its commuter services into a bigger and better integrated transit system for the Calgary Region.

People all ages and backgrounds used On-It to get to Banff in the summer of 2017.  

People all ages and backgrounds used On-It to get to Banff in the summer of 2017.  

Does Calgary need regional transit?

Calgary is unique in that it doesn’t have large satellite cities. In Calgary, 89% of the region’s 1.4 million people live within the City of Calgary.  The City of Vancouver represents only 26% of its regional population, City of Toronto 51% and the cities of Edmonton and Ottawa come in at 71% each.

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The Calgary region has been the fastest growing metropolitan area in Canada for many years.

However, since 2011 Cochrane has had a population increased of 47% since 2011, Airdrie, 42% and Chestermere 34% means some of our satellite cities are growing significantly faster than the City of Calgary’s 13%.

The need for regional growth management is increasing every year, so now is the perfect time to be developing innovative projects like On-It.

In some way Calgary’s LRT system functions like a regional transit system bringing people into the city from suburban communities which would be independent cities in many metropolitan areas. 

It should be noted that both of the On-It pilot programs were integrated with Calgary Transit. The south pilot’s terminus in Calgary was the Somerset-Bridlewood LRT station so passengers could access both the LRT and connecting buses. Similarly the Calgary/Banff service linked into Calgary’s LRT system at both the Crowfoot and Somerset-Bridlewood stations.

Having a regional transit system is critical to the recruitment of major corporation to locate in Calgary.  Amazon’s HQ2 bid document specifically requested detailed information on the applicant’s regional transit system as they recognized their employees would want a diversity of living options from urban to suburban, from small town to rural.

Creating a regional transit system is about enhancing the quality of life for everyone living in the Calgary region.  At 626,000 people Calgary was an early adopter of LRT, why not regional transit at 1.4 million.   

Mike was just one of the thousands of happy users who tweet out about how great it was to have weekend transit service to Banff and Canmore from Calgary.  

Mike was just one of the thousands of happy users who tweet out about how great it was to have weekend transit service to Banff and Canmore from Calgary.  

Last Word

While I am sad to learn the Calgary Regional Partnership will be no more, I can’t think of a more appropriate legacy for the 13-year voluntary partnership than the continuation of the “0n-It” brand as a memory of their forward thinking.

It will also be interesting to see how SOUTHLAND Transportation capitalizes on this opportunity to expand its role as a transportation leader in the Calgary Region.

It would be amazing if the private sector, rather than government were to successfully manage the next phase in development of a regional transit system for Calgary. 

If you like this blog, these links will interest you: 

Calgary/Banff Transit: It is about time!

Calgary Regional Transit: On-It Love In!

On-It Canada 150 Calgary/Banff Weekend Transit

Calgary Condos: A Pop of Colour

Calgary’s suburban communities have often been critized by urbanists as brown, beige and boring. The same could be said for most of Calgary’s early City Centre condo towers like Westmount Place (1979), The Estate (1980) and Eau Claire 500 (1983) immediately come to mind.

It is true - the preponderance of dull and dreary brown and beige buildings makes for a very depressing urban landscape, especially during Calgary’s winter when the grass is brown, the streets are covered with gravel and the leafless trees are a brownish grey. 

Thank goodness for Calgary’s deep blue winter skies!

Fortunately at the turn of the 21st century, Calgary architects and developers began to experiment, integrating coloured glass and panels into their exterior designs.

GEC Architecture utilized bold colours to create 

GEC Architecture utilized bold colours to create 

Pop of Colour

The front entrance of Pixel looks like a hip New York  nightclub. 

The front entrance of Pixel looks like a hip New York  nightclub. 

Battistella Development’s Orange Lofts (2003), designed by Kasian Kennedy of Vancouver, used a bright orange-red, ladder-like element on the exterior of the building creating an eye-catching industrial look that began the rebirth of East Village. 

Colours (2008) employs a two-story, stain glass like “Art Wall” that encloses and attractively disguises the building’s above ground parkade.

Pixel (2014) not only sports bright yellow squares randomly wrapping around a few balconies but also has a very cool and colourful entrance that looks like a hip New York nightclub.

Colours by Battistella has one of the best above-ground parkade designs I have ever seen. 

Colours by Battistella has one of the best above-ground parkade designs I have ever seen. 

Not to be outdone, Knightsbridge and Metropia engaged Calgary’s GEC architects to design four big, bold and colourful condos at the Brentwood LRT station from 2010 to 2014 named University City.  Each tower is distinguished by a brightly coloured angular plane that thrusts itself out of the middle of the each building.

University City's colours remind me of neighbourhood playground. This playfulness will become more appropriate as the planned transit oriented develop next to the Brentwood LRT station creates an urban playground. 

University City's colours remind me of neighbourhood playground. This playfulness will become more appropriate as the planned transit oriented develop next to the Brentwood LRT station creates an urban playground. 

The inspiration for University City's colours (red, yellow, green and orange) come from native prairie grasses, bushes and flowers.

The inspiration for University City's colours (red, yellow, green and orange) come from native prairie grasses, bushes and flowers.

The I.D. Inglewood condo by Sarina Homes completed in 2016 at the east end of 9th Avenue SE, features three-storey high red balcony boxes that recall the red ladder of the Orange Lofts and perhaps the Alberta Children’s Hospital windows.

The I.D. Inglewood condo by Sarina Homes completed in 2016 at the east end of 9th Avenue SE, features three-storey high red balcony boxes that recall the red ladder of the Orange Lofts and perhaps the Alberta Children’s Hospital windows.

Marda Loop’s GLAS condo (2017) designed by Calgary’s Sturgess Architecture recently won a Honourable Mention at the Mayor’s 2017 Urban Design Awards. Its design is dominated by the two-storey high salmon-coloured window boxes that definitely recall the fun oversized windows of the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

GLAS in Marda Loop

GLAS in Marda Loop

Alberta Children's Hospital was designed with input from children.

Alberta Children's Hospital was designed with input from children.

NORR architects employed bold coloured lines to give Auroa I both a vertical and horizontal thrust.  

NORR architects employed bold coloured lines to give Auroa I both a vertical and horizontal thrust.  

All these examples use pops of bold colour to create a more visually interesting exterior.  However, that is not always the case.

Colour Gone Wild?

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Built in 1999, the Point on the Bow condo in Eau Claire is a case in point. It was Calgary’s first condo to embrace the new coloured glass curtain wall technology that would become architects “go to” technology in the 21st century. 

The architects at Gibbs Gage covered almost the entire façade with emerald green glass that some thought harmonized nicely with the green hues of the Bow River at certain times of the year.

Others think it was a case of “colour gone wild.”

And then there is Attainable Homes’ Mount Pleasant 1740 condo designed by Calgary’s Sturgess Architecture and completed in 2016.  The façade is dominated by glowing (some say gaudy) neon greenish yellow panels that may have residents across the street wearing sunglasses. 

There is certainly nothing drab or boring its design. 

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Dare To Be Different

All the above examples employ the use of bold colours. However, Landmark-Qualex’s Mark on 10th (corner of 10th Ave and 8th St SW) dares to be different.  Designed by Vancouver’s Raffi architects, it incorporates panels of pastel blue, yellow and green hues randomly inserted into the opaque panels, creating a softer more feminine façade.  The uniqueness of the building is reinforced with the cantilevered yellow box at the top and the two-storey yellow glass greenhouse space with its bamboo tree growing at the 10th Ave entrance. 

The design is bold yet subtle.
Mark on 10th utilizes several pastel colours with a strong vertical and horizontal lines to create a contemporary stain glass design that recalls the art of Piet Mondrian. 

Mark on 10th utilizes several pastel colours with a strong vertical and horizontal lines to create a contemporary stain glass design that recalls the art of Piet Mondrian. 

Arriva completed on 2007, also utilized pastel colours to create a warm and inviting facade enhanced by the contrast between the curved balconies and the sharp edges of the windows and corners of the building.  There is a pleasing softness to this rounded design. 

Arriva completed on 2007, also utilized pastel colours to create a warm and inviting facade enhanced by the contrast between the curved balconies and the sharp edges of the windows and corners of the building.  There is a pleasing softness to this rounded design. 

Last Word

Incorporating colour and architecture is not as easy as one thinks. If not done right, it can quickly make a building tacky, gaudy and often becomes quickly dated. I have even heard from different sources that “architects are afraid of colour.”   

Perhaps that is why most timeless architecture has little colour.
NORR architects edgy new University of Calgary residence creates a strange juxtaposition withthe beige residences from the 70s and 80s that surround it. 

NORR architects edgy new University of Calgary residence creates a strange juxtaposition withthe beige residences from the 70s and 80s that surround it. 

An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald's Condo Xtra magazine, February, 2018, hence the focus on condos in this blog. 

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

The Art of Architecture & Colour

Calgary: What's Our Colour

Downtown Calgary: Black & White / Inside & Out

 

Urban Living: Importance of BIAs

Business Improvement Districts (BIA) are like Community Associations but for businesses. They lobby, foster, facilitate and advocate for improvements to their neighbourhood. 

Bow Cycle one of the largest bike stores in the world is the anchor tenant for the Bowness BIA.

Bow Cycle one of the largest bike stores in the world is the anchor tenant for the Bowness BIA.

Backstory 

You might know that as BRZ (Business Revitalization Zones) which is what they were originally called in Alberta but have recently converted to the BIA terminology that is used in the rest of Canada. 

Over the past 40+ years, BIAs in Calgary have evolved from shopping districts to mixed-use streets with vibrant café and restaurant cultures, as well as health and fitness spaces (there were no yoga and spin studios in the ‘80s), and retail shops.  They have been incubators for hundreds of small independent Calgary business start-ups.

As a result of this transformation, streets surrounding Calgary’s BIAs have become attractive places to live, as evidenced by the numerous new condos recently completed or under construction next to them.

Full disclosure: I was the Executive Director of the Calgary Downtown Association (CDA) from 1995 to 2006.  The CDA is a BRZ/BIA but chose to call itself an association as the Board thought the term “revitalization” gave the Downtown a negative connotation.

4th Street, Lilac Festival (photo credit: 4th St BIA)

4th Street, Lilac Festival (photo credit: 4th St BIA)

BRZ/BIA/BID 101

In the ‘80s, old pedestrian streets in established neighbourhoods across North America were struggling to survive as shoppers flocked to the big new suburban malls. In an effort to save their businesses, shop owners across North America rallied together to set up Business Revitalization Zones (or BRZs as they were then, recently they have been renamed Business Improvement Areas or BIAs in line with the rest of Canada). In the United States, they are called Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).

The world’s first BIA was set up in Toronto in 1970 for the Bloor West Village. Today, Toronto has 80+ BIAs.  The Alberta Municipal Government Act (MGA) allowed for the formation of Business Revitalization Zones in 1983, with 17th Avenue BRZ being the first (established in September 1984) and Marda Loop the second (December, 1984). Today the 12 BIAs in Calgary represent over 5,000 businesses.  

The MGA allows a BIA to be established when the majority of business owners within a defined area vote in favour of setting up a BIA.  Once established, a Board of Directors are elected who develop an annual work plan and budget, which is submitted to the City of Calgary.  The City then determines the tax levy based on the total assessment on commercial properties in the defined area needed to generate the revenue requested in the BIA.  The BIA levy is in addition to municipal taxes, so the BIAs are self-funded.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 1.04.35 PM.png
Paradise Lanes is one of International Avenue's iconic businesses. 

Paradise Lanes is one of International Avenue's iconic businesses. 

Why are BIAs needed?

BIAs are created where business owners feel services provided by the City with existing tax revenues are inadequate in creating a clean, safe and attractive place for their customers.

Calgary BIAs proactively work with Calgary Parking Authority on parking issues, with police and social agencies on panhandling and homeless issues and with City of Calgary Transportation and Planning on sidewalks, roadwork, cycling lanes, street furniture and reviewing new developments. Some BIAs even have their own “Clean & Safe” programs, hiring people to pick up litter, remove graffiti and identify safety concerns to police.

In addition, BIAs typically manage their own banner program and baskets programs, marketing initiatives and maintain a website to promote business events and news.

Marda Loop is home to an eclectic collection of shops, restaurants and cafes. 

Marda Loop is home to an eclectic collection of shops, restaurants and cafes. 

Public Art/Signature Events

In the early years, several Calgary BIAs developed public art programs designed to make their street more attractive and interesting places for pedestrians. 17th Avenue and International Avenue had ambitious mural programs; 4th Street had a sculpture program and the CDA a “Benches as sculpture” program. 

Signature events were also a key tool to attract people from other quadrants of the City to visit a BIA and see for themselves what it has to offer.  For example, in 1990, 4th Street established the Lilac Festival to kick off spring in Calgary - today it attracts over 100,000 people May.

International Avenue fostered the development of “Around the World in 35 blocks Food Tour” in 1997 to showcase the array of ethnic food available along its 35 blocks 17th Ave SE; the program still exists today. 

For many years, the Downtown Association hosted the annual Santa Claus Parade and today coordinates events on Stephen Avenue Walk.

Dream Fragment, Frankly Heisler, 1992  is one of several public artworks along 4th Street commissioned by the 4th St BIA. 

Dream Fragment, Frankly Heisler, 1992  is one of several public artworks along 4th Street commissioned by the 4th St BIA. 

Last Word

Alison Karim-McSwiney has been the Executive Director of the International Avenue BIA (17th Ave SE from 26th to 61st Street SE) since 1993.  She notes, “Revitalization is not for the faint at heart.  It takes at least a couple of decades to turn around an area and you’ll encounter many setbacks along the way.  Then there will be a certain tipping point where it all starts falling into place. Our community building effort is not to gentrify as we don’t want to lose what makes our area unique.  We are an affordable, inclusive neighbourhood. ”

Indeed, International Avenue is in the midst of a mega transformation to accommodate the 17Ave SE BRT.

Travel Tip:

Whenever I travel to a new city, one of my first Google searches is for BIAs or BIDs, as it will routinely identify the best places to discover the local urban buzz.

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

International Avenue Follows Jane Jacobs Advice

Kensington: One of North America's Healthiest Urban Villages

Marda Loop Madness

 

 

Stampede Park 2025

During the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, Nashville received a lot of attention for how its downtown came alive on game days as the Predators strived to win the Cup. On game nights, tens of thousands of fans who didn’t have game tickets flooded their downtown to watch the game on huge screens outside the arena. 

Nashville’s arena and the next door convention centre were thought by some to be the model for what a new arena and expanded convention centre could do for Calgary’s Stampede Park and City Centre.  

I had to see this for myself, so I planned to be in Nashville for the opening home game of the Predators’ 2017/18 season.

Note: An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald (New Condos section), titled, "Nashville is wrong model for reviving Stampede Park" on Feb, 3, 2018. 

Bridgestone Arena plaza that open up to Lower Broadway is empty most of the time even though it is also home to Nashville Tourist Information Centre. 

Bridgestone Arena plaza that open up to Lower Broadway is empty most of the time even though it is also home to Nashville Tourist Information Centre. 

What I found

I spent 12 days in Nashville, wandering the area around the arena and convention centre almost every day. 

What I found was the streets next to the arena and convention centre were dead except on game days.

Gold Walk, Nashville Predator hockey players

Gold Walk, Nashville Predator hockey players

Only once did I find the arena plaza animated and that was for the annual “Gold Walk.” That’s when, before the first home game of the season, at around 4 pm the Predator players walk into the arena along a gold-coloured carpet.

Lined with fans and cheerleaders, it’s a bit like how football players enter the stadium before a game.  Though, it seemed a bit hokey to me, the few hundred Nashvillans in attendance clearly enjoyed it.

But, on opening game night, it was not hockey but the 50th anniversary celebration of the nearby Tootsie’s Orchard Lounge that drew thousands of people to the street outside the arena.  The block of Lower Broadway - across from the arena - was closed for an all night outdoor concert with free live music by the likes of Alberta’s own Terri Clark.

There was no street animation at any time on three sides of the arena that are blank walls to the street. 

There was no street animation at any time on three sides of the arena that are blank walls to the street. 

For the entire 12 days, the cavernous 2-block long convention centre was empty, or at least it appeared so from the street. I did go in several times but nothing significant was happening and it certainly did nothing to create street vitality.

The Bridgestone all-purpose arena was built in 1996. However, only now, 20 years later are new private sector developments happening around it – Bridgestone and Pinnacle office towers, a mixed-use building (including the National Museum of African American Music) under construction, as well as numerous hotels.  

It is the new convention centre, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the growing popularity of the live music experience along Lower Broadway that are the real catalysts for new downtown developments like the impressive Omni hotel.

Nashville’s main street, Lower Broadway is a gritty street lined with of loud honky-tonk bars that offer free (no cover charge) live music from 10 am to 3 am. The bands play at the front the bars with the windows open so you can hear the music and see the musicians as you stroll along.  Think of it as one long street party 365 days of the year. 

Over the past decade or so, Nashville has done a good job of revitalizing its downtown by making it a major tourist attraction.  The key to the revitalization is the free music 365 days of the year (similar to Las Vegas’ gambling and shows). Note: The NISSAN stadium, home of the NFL Titans, is across the river from downtown sits vacant most of the time. Opened in 1999, to date there has been no other development around it. That should be a “red flag” to anyone thinking a downtown stadium is an automatic catalyst for other developments.

The new convention centre looked lovely, but I never saw anyone use this patio during our 12 days stay, not did I see the centre full of people at any time.

The new convention centre looked lovely, but I never saw anyone use this patio during our 12 days stay, not did I see the centre full of people at any time.

Lessons Learned

As Calgary contemplates the development of an expanded BMO Centre and new arena at Stampede/Victoria Park, we need to be realistic with our expectations. Calgary’s ability to become a mega urban tourist attraction is limited by our accessibility to major tourist markets.  For example, there are 12 million people within a 2.5 hr. drive of Nashville and 250 million within a 2-hour flight. In comparison, Calgary has but a small fraction of that – one million within a 2.5 hr. drive and maybe 15 million within a 2.5-hour flight.

Our weather is also a factor.  In North America, the peak convention and trade show months are from September to June, which for Calgary means cool if not downright cold weather.  In Nashville, even in mid October it was warm enough for shorts - daytime and evenings.

And to be brutally honest, Calgary also lacks a unique sense of place or history essential to becoming a year-round urban tourist attraction.  Nashville is well known internationally as the birthplace of country music, which it has capitalized on to become a year-round music destination. Unfortunately, the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day event, doesn’t allow for a year-round tourist experience.

If Calgary is serious about becoming a tourist city, albeit not on the scale of Nashville, we need to transform Stampede Park into vibrant Sports Hospitality Entertainment District (SHED) for locals first and then tourists.

Stampede Park has been trying to expand for over 20 years.  Will a new arena and expansion of the BMO Centre be the catalyst to create a vibrant year-round sports, entertainment, hospitality district (SHED)?

Stampede Park has been trying to expand for over 20 years.  Will a new arena and expansion of the BMO Centre be the catalyst to create a vibrant year-round sports, entertainment, hospitality district (SHED)?

Does it really make sense to spend $500M+ to build a new arena just a block away that will have less seats for public and more seats for corporate fans?

Does it really make sense to spend $500M+ to build a new arena just a block away that will have less seats for public and more seats for corporate fans?

What is needed?

  • Expand the BMO Centre and repurpose the downtown Calgary TELUS Convention Center. We can’t afford to market and manage two similar facilities.
  • Create a vibrant Main Street (live music venues, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, cafes, shops) along 4th Street SE linking East Village, Victoria Park and Stampede Park. 
  • Build a new arena or an upgraded Saddledome and manage it as a major entertainment/events facility not just a sports centre.
  • Build a Stampede Museum/IMAX where tourists and visiting family and friends can enjoy the history and “spills and thrills” of the Stampede experience year-round.
  • Open up Stampede Park along Mcleod Trail so passers-by can see into the park. 
  • Open up the 17th Avenue entrance to vehicular traffic.
  • Remove guard huts at the entrances to allow free flowing traffic through the park 24/7
The next evolution of Stampede Park will be from restricted gated-community to an open community where people are free to walk, cycle and drive through like any other community in Calgary. 

The next evolution of Stampede Park will be from restricted gated-community to an open community where people are free to walk, cycle and drive through like any other community in Calgary. 

Stampede Park: A place to live?

Given Calgary doesn’t have access to a large tourist market, the key to a vibrant Stampede Park SHED will be to surround it with thousands of condos that are attractive and affordable to Calgarians of all ages and means. 

Stampede Park must become the front yard, back yard and outdoor living room for thousands of Calgarians living in East Village, Victoria Park, Erlton, Inglewood and Ramsay.  It must become a year-round urban playground.

We need residential projects like Lamb’s The Orchard (485 units), Anthem’s Crosstown (874 units + grocery store) at Erlton Station and Cidex’s HAT@Elbow River (1,200 units) on the Elbow River Casino site to happen sooner rather than later.

Anthem Properties has plans to build four condo towers next to Stampede Park and the Erlton LRT station in the future.  Stampede Park would be their playground. 

Anthem Properties has plans to build four condo towers next to Stampede Park and the Erlton LRT station in the future.  Stampede Park would be their playground. 

Lamb Corporation has plans for two towers along 11th Avenue and 5th St SE. 

Lamb Corporation has plans for two towers along 11th Avenue and 5th St SE. 

This is a conceptual plan developed by Sturgess Architects for the redevelopment of the land next to Erlton Station with the Anthem towers included.

This is a conceptual plan developed by Sturgess Architects for the redevelopment of the land next to Erlton Station with the Anthem towers included.

Remington Developments owns the land south of the CPR tracks that was at one time earmarked for the mega Railtown development that would have included office, condos, shops, LRT and high speed train station.  

Remington Developments owns the land south of the CPR tracks that was at one time earmarked for the mega Railtown development that would have included office, condos, shops, LRT and high speed train station.  

Last Word

Calgary will be hosting 25,000 International Rotarian Convention attendees in 2025.  What a great opportunity to showcase Calgary’s new 21st century Stampede Park as a year-round tourist destination to the delegates.

There’s no time to waste. The Stampede Board, Mayor, Council, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation must begin working quickly to develop an exciting share vision for Stampede Park.

We MUST work together if we want to make our city a major year-round tourist attraction.

Richard White can be reached at rwhiteyyc@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @everydaytourist

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

Linking East Village & Stampede Park: The Next Step

Calgary Wants Vs Needs: Arena, Convention Centre, Stadium

Flamesville vs Stampede Park

 

 

 

Everyday Tourist: Double Exposure

Recently I posted a blog summarizing Calgary’s impressive list of festivals for 2018. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t include all of the 100+ festivals that take place in Calgary each year. 

However, there is one I should have included, that being the Exposure Photography Festival, Feb 1 to 18, 2018.

Prayers, Calgary

Prayers, Calgary

Must See

For photography buffs (isn’t everyone these days?) this is a “must see” festival.  Indeed, photography has become a key element of everyday life, around the world.  Today, thanks to smart phones being camera toowe communicate with photos as much as we do words. 

Why write it down when you can just take a photo? After all, isn’t a picture worth a thousand words?

Fair, Beltline/Sunalta

Fair, Beltline/Sunalta

Fun Begins At Eau Claire Market 

The Exposure Photography Festival 2018 kicks off at Eau Claire Market at 10 am on Saturday, February 3, when two former retail spaces, transformed into temporary Exposure Galleries, open to the public.  The two galleries will feature three exhibitions - Open Call exhibition (juried by Andrea Kunard, Associate Curator of Photography, National Gallery of Canada), Emerging Photographers Showcase (EPS) and a solo exhibition by Blake Chorley, the 2017 winner of the EPS.  

At 1 pm there is a walking tour of The FENCE, led by the creators of the project Sam Barzilay and Dave Shelley from Brooklyn, New York.

Backstory: The FENCE is a large-scale traveling photography exhibition is seen by four million visitors annually through open-air exhibitions in seven cities across the United States: Brooklyn, Boston, Atlanta, Houston, Santa Fe, Durham, and Denver. Calgary’s The FENCE will be the first time the exhibition has travelled outside the USA. It will be installed on construction fencing starting at the Peace Bridge and working its way east towards Exposure’s Eau Claire Market Festival Hub. Pop-up fences will also appear along Stephen Avenue.

Link: The Fence 

The Fence in Calgary will be along the Eau Claire Promenade from the Peace Bridge to Eau Claire Market. (photo credit: The Fence website)

The Fence in Calgary will be along the Eau Claire Promenade from the Peace Bridge to Eau Claire Market. (photo credit: The Fence website)

Then from 6 to 10pm that day, Exposure will hold opening receptions for the Emerging Photographers Showcase, Open Call, and 2017 EPS Winner's Solo Exhibition at Eau Claire Market.

And that is just Day One! A full line up of exhibitions and events can be found at www.exposurephotofestival.com

Coiffeur, Calgary/Berlin

Coiffeur, Calgary/Berlin

About Exposure

Exposure is an annual showcase for Calgary’s photography community 25,000 people. First launched in 2004, its goal is to engage and connect the public with local photographers, as well as provide workshops and lectures and networking opportunities for photographers.

This year’s festival includes 38 exhibitions at various venues across the city, as well as 13 workshops and talks.

Everyday Tourist: Double Exposure

In honour of Calgary’s Exposure 2018, I have self-curated an exhibition of “street” photos titled “Double Exposure” as each of the images is a synthesis of two images.  I have given each piece a title and an indication of where the photos were taken.  In some cases, it will be two cities, or if taken in Calgary it may be two different communities.

Hope you enjoy!

Winter Thoughts, Calgary/Palm Springs

Winter Thoughts, Calgary/Palm Springs

Change, Nashville

Change, Nashville

Peek-a-boo, Downtown/Beltline

Peek-a-boo, Downtown/Beltline

Barbie, Montreal/Calgary

Barbie, Montreal/Calgary

See Through, Leipzig

See Through, Leipzig

Directions, Leipzig

Directions, Leipzig

Buggy, Berlin

Buggy, Berlin

Mask, Berlin

Mask, Berlin

Sit, Leipzig/Berlin

Sit, Leipzig/Berlin

Crystal Ball, Calgary/Berlin

Crystal Ball, Calgary/Berlin

Caution, Calgary/Berlin

Caution, Calgary/Berlin

Queen, Calgary, Inglewood

Queen, Calgary, Inglewood

Postcard, Hamilton/Calgary

Postcard, Hamilton/Calgary

Language, Berlin

Language, Berlin

Patina, Hillhurst, Calgary 

Patina, Hillhurst, Calgary 

ah, Nashville

ah, Nashville

Big Heads, Calgary/Nashville

Big Heads, Calgary/Nashville

Diversity, Calgary, Downtown/Sunnyside

Diversity, Calgary, Downtown/Sunnyside

Spotlight, Calgary, Beltline

Spotlight, Calgary, Beltline

Fallen, Calgary, Sunnyside/Marda Loop

Fallen, Calgary, Sunnyside/Marda Loop

Last Word

With the proliferation of smart phones (or should I say smart cameras), is estimated that over one trillion digital photos were taken in 2017, that is 1,000,000,000,000. Snapchat users share 8,796 photos every second.  Who knows how many more are posted on Instagram, Twitter and Apple’s shared photos?

It is totally mind-boggling how much visual information we process (skim, surf) every day. Exposure 2018 is an opportunity for everyone to take a step back, then stop, look, ponder and reflect - on the role photography plays in our everyday life. I know photography plays a huge role in my life every day!

If you like this blog, you might like these links:

Everyday Tourist Street Art Photos 2015

Everyday Tourist Photo Collage Fun 

The Art Of Gardening 

16th Ave N Urban Corridor: What went wrong?

Back in 2011, with much fanfare, the City of Calgary completed the expansion and enhancement of 16th Ave NE from 6th St NE to 10th St NW. Originally budgeted at $20M, the project more than quadrupled to $89M as the project evolved from a simple addition of an addition land east and west to creating an “urban corridor” that - in theory - would attract new mixed-use developments with commercial at street level and residential above. 

In fact, a key reason for the increased cost of the project was the City’s acquisition of several sites to allow for immediate road expansion and future mixed-use development.  Unfortunately, now five years later, the new developments haven’t happened resulting in several huge vacant lots along what should be a showcase for Calgary’s new urban sense of place.

There are several long vacant lots on the south side of 16th Avenue N that should have been developed by now even in the recession. 

There are several long vacant lots on the south side of 16th Avenue N that should have been developed by now even in the recession. 

16th Avenue N is still very auto-focused.  

16th Avenue N is still very auto-focused.  

Why no new developments?

The City wants wider sidewalks while still retaining large right of ways on the remaining land, resulting in development sites that are too shallow for cost effective parkade designs that meet city standards.

The City’s Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) zoned several key sites for major redevelopment, without considering how property lines or ownership were impacted. Some sites owned by one entity were split into two zonings with different densities and heights, but still the City wants to see one building. This makes development complex and therefore costly.

The ARP on 16th Ave N also lacked input from experienced mixed-use developers, critical to understanding the complex financial considerations associated with creating viable zoning, heights, site access and uses for viable mixed-use development.

Some areas of 16th Ave N still have huge by-lawed setbacks that sterilize key corners for viable pedestrian-friendly development.

The City went out of its way to expand 16th Ave N to six lanes for vehicular traffic, recognizing its importance as a crucial east-west link, but then prohibited vehicular access except from rear lands. 

The City left key pieces missing from expansion plans (e.g. former gas station at 16 Ave and 11 St NW) where they didn’t expand sidewalks or address access leaving the costs to the developer - and ultimately new residents - which in effect rules out competitively priced mixed-use projects.

Large sections of 16th Avenue N on its south side are isolated, unpleasant and very noisy with giant sound walls reflecting traffic noise back at the pedestrians.

Chris Ollenberger, Managing Principal at QuantumPlace Developments Ltd. (and mastermind of the East Village master plans) thinks, “that while 16th Ave expansion was a vehicle transportation-focused project, it is plagued by some questionable planning regulations that haven’t worked. It hasn’t realized the development the City planners were hoping for due to fiscal, physical, market and commercial considerations that didn’t have the voice needed during the planning process.”

Today, Ollenberger’s office is right on 16th Ave N at 10th Street and he has been working on three projects along the corridor. If anyone could make a project work on 16th Avenue, it would be him.  He has observed that locals often use the back alley on the north side between 16th and 17th Ave as their east-west pedestrian corridor, avoiding 16th Ave sidewalks all together.

(see response from City Planner, Jordan Furness re: changes made in 2017 to 16th Ave Area Redevelopment Plan at the end of this blog)

16th Ave N has wide sidewalks but no pedestrians. 

16th Ave N has wide sidewalks but no pedestrians. 

Rise of 17th Avenue NW

Ironically, while 16th Ave N has struggled to attract development, 17th Ave N has been booming with new major residential developments on almost every block from Centre St to 10th St NW.

One of these is the recently completed and sold out Attainable Homes’ 31-unit Mount Pleasant 1740 at the corner of 9th St and 17th Ave NW.  A bit further east under construction is Trico’s Delaney, a 44-unit condo (12 units being affordable housing of which 10 are wheelchair accessible). It is interesting to note the Delaney is oriented to the alley between 17th and 16th Avenue as per Ollenberger’s observation.

Further east, Castle Mountain Developments have dug the hole for Elm on 17th and two newer condos have also been completed and occupied.

The good news - this increased 17th Ave N residential development will ultimately make the 16th Ave N more viable for commercial developments as they will provide the patrons needed to help make pubs, cafes, restaurants etc. viable.

Mount Pleasant 1740 condo project

Mount Pleasant 1740 condo project

Delany condo is oriented to the alley between 16th and 17th Ave N

Delany condo is oriented to the alley between 16th and 17th Ave N

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Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 1.41.04 PM.png

Good News For 16th Ave NW

The Calgary Co-op, in conjunction with Quarry Bay Investments, have submitted a combined development permit and land use redesignation (re-zoning) application for their existing 16 Ave N site. The development proposes five buildings containing a new supermarket, liquor store, financial institution, office, gas bar, car wash, and 115 residential units.

The Marquee Group, a hotel developer turned condo developer, has also recently completed Marquee on 16th a nine storey 138-home residential development on 16th Ave at 1st St NE. Located near the Calgary Co-op site, these two developments could mark the beginning of a vibrant 16th Ave urban streetscape. 

Several interesting businesses along the north side of 16th Ave N – Aquila Books, Earl’s, The Cat’n Fiddle Pub, Turn It Up Records & HiFi, Guitar Works, Phoenix Comics, Namskar Fine East Indian restaurant and White’s Flowers – could become important building blocks for future pedestrian-oriented blocks.

As well, the City is working on making 16th Avenue N a major cross town BRT route which should result in more pedestrian traffic on 16th Ave (i.e. transit users getting off and on the bus) and remove some of the cars, helping with some of the noise.

Councillor Druh Farrell admits, "the ARP was overly complicated and restrictive and has since been simplified drastically." Ollenberger thinks it is great the City has acknowledge the ARP flaws.  He adds, "the best thing the City could do is sell the remaining land it has quickly and  then collaborate with the development and investment industry to enabling viable new developments to happen." 

Calgary Co-op site could become anchor 16th Avenue transformation. 

Calgary Co-op site could become anchor 16th Avenue transformation. 

Marquis on 16th condo from back alley. 

Marquis on 16th condo from back alley. 

Last Word

While in the past 16th Avenue N as part of the Trans Canada Highway was car-oriented, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t also be pedestrian-oriented in the future.  For example, Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue is a wide car-oriented street yet also a popular pedestrian destination. The same goes for South Granville in Vancouver.

Ironically, 16th Avenue N is no longer the TransCanada Highway. Signs at both the east and west entrances to the City no longer direct drivers to take the 16th Ave N but rather the ring road, bypassing the City altogether. 

City's Response:

Note: An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald, titled "Roadblocks stall City's Vision for 16th Avenue N,"on January 20, 2018.  On January 23, I received the following email:

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 11.23.01 AM.png

I would like to thank Jordan for taking the initiative to contact me with this information which indicates that the City is trying to address the problems associated with 16th Ave N redevelopment and that there is still a need for improvement. 

I am optimistic that as the City finalizes plans for the Green Line LRT along Centre Street that further improvements will be made to help transform 16th Avenue into a vibrant urban street. 

As I like to say, "it takes decades for urban transformations."    

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

Flaneuring The Fringes: 16th Ave N

Calgary: TransCanada Highway's Motel History

Mean Streets, Main Streets, Pretty Streets

Downtown Calgary: $100 Million Help Fund

In a recent blog, I discussed why the City of Calgary’s approval of $100 million to help fill up downtown office space was not a good idea. However, given it is a done deal, it will be interesting to see what plans Calgary Economic Development and the downtown property owners come up with for the approved monies - even the Mayor admitted was an “arbitrary number.” 

Link: Not The City's Role To Help Fill Up Vacant Downtown Office Space 

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 11.44.15 PM.png

Pitch other HQs

While Calgary is out of the running for Amazon's HQ2, Calgary Economic Development and all of its partners learned what we need to do to retool our City (not just the downtown) for the 21st century.  That being said there are lots of other corporations who could be approached to move to Calgary or use our downtown as a Canadian or North American headquarters.  

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American cities are big on providing incentives for corporation to move to their city, but Calgary isn't allowed to provide incentives so we will have to entice them to locate in Calgary based on economic rationale.

FYI: Providing incentives for businesses to relocate is a fool’s game.  Businesses should only locate in downtown Calgary if it is economically viable based on current market conditions and conservative future market projections. 

The cost to create Calgary’s Amazon HQ2 bid was $500,000 (supplemented by a significant amount of in-kind research and volunteer hours), was  one of the most intensive and complex bids any economic development agency would ever have to produce.  At best, there are probably a dozen major bids for corporate relocation or expansion to Calgary, but they would be only a fraction of the work of the Amazon bid and much of the baseline information has already been collected.  So that doesn't account for the need for $100M.

Link: Don Braid: Lessons Learned from Calgary's Amazon Bid

There a numerous older office buildings in downtown Calgary that could be converted into an arts hub, innovation centre, youth hostel, affordable housing and other uses.  

There a numerous older office buildings in downtown Calgary that could be converted into an arts hub, innovation centre, youth hostel, affordable housing and other uses.  

“Out Of The Office” Ideas

Perhaps it would be wise to use the $100M to fund feasibility studies and incentives to help diversify our downtown away from corporate offices. 

Here are some ideas I have heard suggested by various urban development professionals:

  1. Convert office space to enable the Alberta College of Art & Design to relocate downtown, build a public art gallery in the same building as well as spaces for commercial galleries and artists’ studios. In other words, create a downtown arts hub. Note: The City spent $30 million to create cSPACE in the former King Edward School.
  2. Convert older downtown office buildings into student or affordable housing, maybe a youth hostel or a boutique hotel.
  3. Study the feasibility of attracting a major international university, medical center or NGO (non government organization, e.g. health, humanitarian agency) to locate in one or more of our downtown office buildings. 
  4. Lobby the Federal government and Larco Investments Lid who own the Harry Hays Building to relocated Calgary's Federal government offices to a downtown office space. A location on or near the 7th Avenue Transit corridor would be much more convenient for customers/clients and employees. Perhaps we can lobby the Federal Government to relocated one or more other major offices/agencies to Calgary. The Harry Hays site would make for a great mixed-use condo development. 
  5. Earmark some of the money to help convert an office building into an Innovation Hub – a current hot button for economic development. FYI: This is already happening with the old 30-storey Pan Canadian/Encana Tower, which was recently renamed The Edison by Aspen Properties – with no government help.  They have plans to renovated the space to create a unique work place they hope will be attractive to young entrepreneurs.  Amenities include: exclusive tenant lounge with board games and library, fitness facility, dog-friendly patio, dog spa area, basketball half court, golf simulator, third floor outdoor patio, rooftop patio, conference facility, multi-purpose game room, bike sharing program and bike storage. Hmmmm…is this a place to work or play? (See photo below for information on the East Village Parakade /Innovation Centre recently annoucned)
  6. Renovate Stephen Avenue Walk to create an attractive 21st century street that can better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, vendors, deliveries, taxis and events.  A vibrant main street (weekdays, evenings and weekends) is a key element in attracting major IT and Tech firms to locate in downtown Calgary.
  7. Improve Calgary's cycling infrastructure. Perhaps, pilot an inner-city bike share program. Being cycling friendly is important when competing with other cities for young creative entrepreneurs.
With much fanfare, the City of Calgary, Calgary Parking Authority and Calgary Municipal Land Corporation announced on Jan 23, 2018 that East Village will be home to a new $80 million, 5-storey parkade with 50,000 square feet space for Platform.  Platform will be "a multi-use space for learners, projects, makers and community. Platform is a The Innovation Centre for Everyone, " states CMLC's news release.  One has to question, "why the City (aka Parking Authority/CMLC) is building space for a tenant like Platform when there is a glut of space in the downtown?"  Link to Yeldin's answer: Calgary Takes Big Step Forward With Platform

With much fanfare, the City of Calgary, Calgary Parking Authority and Calgary Municipal Land Corporation announced on Jan 23, 2018 that East Village will be home to a new $80 million, 5-storey parkade with 50,000 square feet space for Platform.  Platform will be "a multi-use space for learners, projects, makers and community. Platform is a The Innovation Centre for Everyone, " states CMLC's news release. 

One has to question, "why the City (aka Parking Authority/CMLC) is building space for a tenant like Platform when there is a glut of space in the downtown?" 

Link to Yeldin's answer: Calgary Takes Big Step Forward With Platform

Aspen Properties has created Calgary's first dog-friendly office building - expect more of this "out of the box" thinking as  building owners look for creative ways to fill up their empty office space.

Aspen Properties has created Calgary's first dog-friendly office building - expect more of this "out of the box" thinking as  building owners look for creative ways to fill up their empty office space.

Let’s not…

I hope none of the $100 million is earmarked for marketing and brand campaign. Do we really want another “Be Part Of The Energy” or “Heart of the New West” campaign?  Trying to contrive a new brand for a city is another fool’s game. The best brands grow organically based on authentic attributes of the city. No major corporation is going to relocate to Calgary because we have a new brand with a sexy marketing campaign.

Backstory: Tourism Calgary has already spent a significant amount of time and money researching Calgary’s global brand and reputation over the past year.  Look for an announcement shortly on how they intend to revise Calgary’s brand and market our city to the world.  

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Last Word

As one Calgary developer/office manager who works for a major International property management company said to me “We lack big ideas on how to dramatically evolve our downtown to thrive in the economic reality of the early 21st century.” 

However, others think rather than waiting for the big idea or chasing the big saviour (Amazon HQ2), what Calgary needs are several smaller initiatives each designed to diversify our downtown core from being a corporate office ghetto into a vibrant mixed-use “work, live, play” community.

Indeed, successful cities continually adapt to local, regional, national and global economic changes; unsuccessful ones cling to old economic paradigms.

Can Calgary adapt to the 21st century? 
Filling up Calgary's downtown vacant office space is going to require some innovative thinking property owners, the City and the cooperation of Provincial and Federal governments.

Filling up Calgary's downtown vacant office space is going to require some innovative thinking property owners, the City and the cooperation of Provincial and Federal governments.

Not the City's role to help fill vacant downtown office space?

OK I've said it - "it is not the City of Calgary's role to help fill-up downtown's empty office space."  I can't believe nobody else has said this publicly. 

Regular readers will know I am a big supporter of our downtown and the important role it plays economically and culturally in defining our city. However, I strongly feel it is not the City's role to spend tax dollars to help fill empty office spaces.  

While I questioned the City's approving $10 million to help building owners  and managers look for ways to fill up their excess office space, I thought the additional $90 million approved in December was excessive.

As the the Executive Director of the Downtown Association, (which represents the 3,500+ downtown businesses) from 1995 to 2006, one of the things my Board of Directors were always adamant about was "you have to let the market decide."    

I hope the following helps put the current downtown office ghetto issue into perspective.

The Conversation by William McElcheran, on Stephen Avenue Walk in downtown Calgary is Calgary's signature piece of public art. It epitomizes the importance of Calgary's downtown as one of North America's leading corporate headquarter centers. 

The Conversation by William McElcheran, on Stephen Avenue Walk in downtown Calgary is Calgary's signature piece of public art. It epitomizes the importance of Calgary's downtown as one of North America's leading corporate headquarter centers. 

Office Vacancy In Perspective

Is the downturn in the fortunes of Calgary’s downtown really as bad as we think? 

While the media often paints a bleak picture using the “one in four downtown office buildings are empty” descriptor, in reality there are actually no empty downtown office buildings. The 15 million square feet of vacancy is spread out over 100+ office buildings.

And in fact, there is very little risk any of Calgary’s major office property owners will go bankrupt as most are owned by large pension funds or large real estate corporations with deep pockets and diverse portfolios. 

Historically Calgary's downtown has absorbed about 500,000 square feet of office space annually, which means if the economy returned to historical norms it will take 30 years to fill up the 15M sf of empty office space.   

Historically Calgary's downtown has absorbed about 500,000 square feet of office space annually, which means if the economy returned to historical norms it will take 30 years to fill up the 15M sf of empty office space.   

The current dilemma of too much vacant office space is the result of the investment and development community building 10 million square feet of office space over the past several years assuming continual growth of Alberta’s energy sector.  

Though it was an educated gamble that hasn’t worked in the short term, remember pension funds are long-term investors.

As they like to say, “It is a long-term game!”

In the meantime, Calgary's business community is enjoying some of the most affordable downtown office rents in years and it looks like they will continue to do so for many years into the future.  

And yes, there are fewer downtown workers and less tax revenue generated by downtown businesses than at the peak in 2014. However, our downtown remains relatively healthy, generating more tax revenue from downtown offices than perhaps any city in North America with a population under two million. 

In fact, there are significantly more people currently employed in Calgary’s downtown offices today than in Austin, Vancouver or Portland, all cities with healthy downtowns. Let's not blame all of downtown's woes on the empty office space.

Any city our size would love to have 30 million square feet of occupied downtown office space that we have.  

$100M City Help Fund

In June 2017, the City of Calgary approved $10 million dollars for Calgary Economic Development to help fill empty downtown office space. Then in December it approved another $90 million. In all, that’s one-tenth of a billion dollars to help fill up empty office space owned by investors with deep pockets!

The dark side of Calgary's plethora of highrise office buildings is the City has became too dependent on downtown as a cash cow.  

The dark side of Calgary's plethora of highrise office buildings is the City has became too dependent on downtown as a cash cow.  

Calgary has several major commercial real estate brokerage firms with access to global market research and contacts to pitch Calgary’s downtown and its very affordable vacant office space as a place to open up an office.

It is their job to find tenants for the empty office space, not the City's.

These seasoned professionals knew there would be a gut of downtown office space with the new buildings coming on stream and have been researching globally for the past few years to identify and pitch Calgary’s downtown to new corporations of all sizes and in all sectors.

I am confident Calgary's real estate brokerage community has left "no stones unturned." 

More Business-Friendly

What I have heard from the business community is the City should be focusing on is creating a business-friendly culture at City Hall, where regulations are manageable and minimized, where the bureaucracy operates with a focus on getting things done and where the relationships with the business community are fair to everyone. 

Calgary need to retool and reinvent our downtown for the 21st century.

Calgary need to retool and reinvent our downtown for the 21st century.

The City must become a better facilitator and collaborator rather than a barrier to business development and establish tax rates that are stable and viewed as fair for all businesses. 

In the minds of most business people today, the City fails on too many of these issues and is dysfunction in some.  

While the large corporations and property owners get all of the media attention small and medium size businesses are critical to Calgary's future wellbeing. 

Of Calgary's total businesses (58,870) in 2016, small business (businesses with less than 50 employees) accounted fro 95% (or 55,972). Calgary Economic Development website. 

RED Flag

Even before the drop in the price of oil and natural gas, major corporations were moving out of the downtown because of high rents, parking costs and better access to employees who lived mostly in the suburbs. 

In 2012, Imperial Oil announced it was moving its 3,000 employees to a new headquarters in Quarry Park and vacated its 850,000 square feet of downtown office space. 

In the same year Canadian Pacific Railway announced it was relocating its 1,000 employees to its Ogden Yards where it created a new 225,000 square foot head office.

Currently, ATCO is looking to move out of its 300,000 square feet in the Beltline to its new Lincoln Park campus. 

Backstory: In the late '90s, PanCanadian before it merged with Alberta Energy to become Encana was seriously looking at moving to Lincoln Park before deciding to build the Bow Tower.  Today Lincoln Park has become an attractive inner-city office park with anchor tenants like Brookfield Residential and ATCO. 

In fact, the Calgary GoPlan approved in the mid '90s actually called for the creation of mini-downtowns in the suburbs. The rationale was these downtown would be employment centres would allow more Calgarians to live closer to work and reduce the congestion on city roads and transit. 

Developments like Quarry Park, SETON, Currie/Lincoln Park University District/UofC/Foothills Medical Centre were all encouraged as part of decentralizing Calgary's employment base to help reduce traffic congestion and over crowding on transit. 

Jennifer Keesmaat, one of Canada's leading urban planners just last week tweeted "to reduce congestion we need to create a multi-centred city. We need to shorten the long commute by creating destinations closer to where people already live. Creating true urban place in the heart of the suburbs."     

This is exactly what Calgary began doing 20 years ago, unfortunately somewhat to the detriment of our downtown.  

Imperial Oil moved its head office to Quarry Park a new 21st century master planned community in SE Calgary that includes 2 million square feet of prime office space, along with residential, retail and recreational amenities.  

Imperial Oil moved its head office to Quarry Park a new 21st century master planned community in SE Calgary that includes 2 million square feet of prime office space, along with residential, retail and recreational amenities.  

Last Word

While it is understandable that the Mayor and Councillors want to help fill up the empty downtown office buildings (they want the cash cow healthy again), in fact what they should be focused on is creating a more business-friendly culture at the city for all sectors of Calgary business community.

Calgary is facing a new economic reality that doesn’t warrant the City spending $100 million of tax payers dollars to help fill up vacant downtown office space.

As one senior downtown property developer and manager said, “You can’t fight the market!” 

Note: Given the $100M "Downtown Help Fund" is a done deal, my next blog will look at how it might be used to find other uses for downtown office space. 

If you like this blog, you will like these links: 

All Downtowns Must Reinvent Themselves

Calgary: Are We Too Downtown-Centric?

Calgary's CBD is unique?

Historic Downtown Calgary Postcards

Palm Springs With A Twist

If, from the title, you are expecting a blog about Palm Springs’ cocktail culture, you are in for a surprise. The “twist” refers to the delightful “Twist” Airbnb where we stayed AND our “twist” on how to get around when visiting Palm Springs.

Yes that is beached whale in the distance. 

Yes that is beached whale in the distance. 

Twist Design

First off, neither the Twist owner nor Airbnb sponsored our stay so we are not “obligated” to say nice things. But we will because it is true.

Loved this view as we headed out for an adventure everyday.  

Loved this view as we headed out for an adventure everyday.  

Upon our arrival, as were getting out of our Uber car, we immediately loved its ultra clean, two-story white mid-century motel-like architecture.  Our love was heightened when we opened the gate to see the crystal blue water of the pool with funky orange lounge chairs and giant unicorn, swan and whale pool toys floating in the pool inviting us to come play with them. 

Then when we opened the door to our apartment, we immediately loved the space, colours and playful furniture and art. 

The large west-facing windows gave the spacious, open living room, dining room and kitchen lots of light (often desert architecture, because of the heat, avoids letting the sun shine into the house, resulting in interior rooms often feeling dark and dingy). The windows and generous balcony offered a great view of the mountains.  I immediately thought I could live here and as the week progressed that thought was confirmed over and over again.

Comfy couch...

Comfy couch...

Mellow Yellow...

Mellow Yellow...

And a beer or glass of wine....

And a beer or glass of wine....

Flower power....

Flower power....

Hot Tip #1

Our apartment #207 was at the back of the building so it was super quiet.

Yep, that's me relaxing on the balcony...

Yep, that's me relaxing on the balcony...

Twist Location

The fact we could walk out the door and be immediately in the Design District with its mix of new and vintage furniture and home accessory stores as well as art galleries, was great. 

We did a window walk-by the first afternoon, then a stroll the next day and another walk-by at night as some of the well-lit windows are like art installations. 

A 15-minute walk via the Design District gets you downtown with more boutiques, restaurants, cafes, museum and art galleries. 

This was Brenda's favourite shop...gotta like those mail boxes.

This was Brenda's favourite shop...gotta like those mail boxes.

Museum or home store?

Museum or home store?

Guess what kind of shop this was....

Guess what kind of shop this was....

Windows as art....

Windows as art....

Form & Function  

Form & Function  

Hot Tip #2  

Admission for the Palm Springs Art Museum (PSAM) is free every Thursday night and second Sunday of the month. It is a “must see” with its always entertaining and enlightening exhibitions.  It’s an easy and short walk from The Twist on the back roads through the charming Old Las Palmas community to get there.

There is nothing weird, wild or wacky about PSAM, which makes it easy to enjoy the art and not get lost. 

There is nothing weird, wild or wacky about PSAM, which makes it easy to enjoy the art and not get lost. 

Definitely the most imaginative exhibition I saw in 2017 was Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954–1969. This is Gyula Kosice's installation "La ciudad hidroespacial." 

Definitely the most imaginative exhibition I saw in 2017 was Kinesthesia: Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954–1969. This is Gyula Kosice's installation "La ciudad hidroespacial." 

Carlos Curz-Diez's installation "Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space." The three empty rooms and a hallway flooded with colored lights was like walking into a neon-light sign.  Disorienting and playful at the same time....

Carlos Curz-Diez's installation "Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space." The three empty rooms and a hallway flooded with colored lights was like walking into a neon-light sign.  Disorienting and playful at the same time....

Backstory:

This exhibition is the first in-depth examination of the pioneering role played by South American artists in the international Kinetic Art movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Grounded by scholarly research into experimental art movements of the late 1940s and early 1950s in Buenos Aires, Caracas, and Rio de Janeiro, Kinesthesia begins its survey with the layered “vibrational” works created by Jesús Rafael Soto for the historic Le Mouvement exhibition at Galerie Denise René in Paris (1955) and goes on to explore more than fifty examples by nine artists.

The works of internationally well-known figures, such as Carlos Cruz-Diez, Gyula Kosice, and Julio Le Parc, along with Martha Boto, Horacio García-Rossi, Alejandro Otero, Abraham Palatnik, and Gregorio Vardánega, will be a discovery for most viewers in the United States. 

Kinesthesia makes a compelling case that although Paris remains the indisputable capital of Kinetic Art, much of the Latin American work thought to be in that category did not come into being as a consequence of the movement, but often anticipated, and unfolded in tandem with, the better-known European developments.

Twist Bikes

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We loved the Twist’s bright orange cruiser bikes that allowed us to explore the residential neighbourhoods nearby and further afield. Old Palmas and the Movie Colony communities just west and east of The Twist are full of classic mid-century modern homes – it’s like cycling through a copy of Architectural Digest.

We did the Palm Springs Mid-century Modern Architectural Self-guided Tour on bike: 

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Treasure Hunting Twist

Then another day we took the bikes and headed to the Antique District just south of Downtown where we found amazing treasure hunting at Revivals Thrift store, ECHO Vintage Furnishing (good prices, professionally curated), Antique Galleries of Palm Springs (huge) and Sunny Dunes Antique Mall.

Echo Vintage Furnishings is heaven for mid-century lovers. 

Echo Vintage Furnishings is heaven for mid-century lovers. 

Antique Galleries Palm Springs is packed with treasures on two floors.  

Antique Galleries Palm Springs is packed with treasures on two floors.  

Imagine finding a grand piano at a thrift store. 

Imagine finding a grand piano at a thrift store. 

Untitled, Jensen, 24" x 11" oil painting.  Picked up this artwork to add to our collection at the Antique Galleries of Palm Springs for $50 CDN. 

Untitled, Jensen, 24" x 11" oil painting.  Picked up this artwork to add to our collection at the Antique Galleries of Palm Springs for $50 CDN. 

Hot Tip #3

Check out Peninsula Pastries in the same outdoor mall as Revivals. It is a little bit of Paris in Palm Springs - the chocolate tongues are to die for.

The chocolate tongues were worth every penny....

The chocolate tongues were worth every penny....

Transit Twist

Everybody told us we needed a car in Palm Springs. Nobody told us public transit can work just fine for tourists.  While the buses don’t run every 5-minutes, Google Maps can tell you when the next bus is so you just plan for that. Bonus: the cost is only 50 cents for seniors  (60+) and youth (5 to 17 years), $1 for adults while kids under 5 are FREE.  Ten-ride and 31-day passes are also available. We were able to take the bus to Cathedral City to check out the Goodwill and Revivals thrift stores, as well as Target and Trader Joes.  

Link: Sunline Transit

Hot Tip #4

There is also a free trolley service Thursday to Sunday, 11 am to 1 am called Palm Springs BUZZ.  Hop on and off as much as you wish. The BUZZ serves the City of Palm Springs by travelling down Palm Canyon Drive to Smoke Tree, and up Indian and Palm Canyons Drives to Via Escuela (that’s the simple description—there are some small detours off the main streets.)

LInk: BUZZ Route Map

Yes everything in Palm Springs is playful and colourful....that is probably why it could become my happy place.

Yes everything in Palm Springs is playful and colourful....that is probably why it could become my happy place.

Last Word

We can hardly wait to get back to The Twist and Palm Springs. It could easily become an annual visit. 

Hot Tip #5

For those really hoping this blog would be about cocktails, we have recommendation on that too. Checkout Melvyn’s Sunday Afternoon Jam. It is right out of the ‘50s, you would swear the Rat Pack is somewhere in the building.  It is the perfect spot to order your favourite cocktail and enjoy some live music from the ‘50s.  I had a Black Russian for probably the first time in two decades.  FYI: I think there were still some patrons as well as the staff, have been hanging out here since the ‘50s.  Great people watching!

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Importance of Cultural Philanthropists

I was intrigued to learn while recently shopping at a Bashas’ grocery store in Mesa, Arizona, that this family-owned grocer not only has its own public art gallery, but houses the largest collection of Western American & American Indian Art in the USA.

Eddie Basha Jr. began collecting art as a hobby in the ‘70s under the guidance of his Aunt Zelma.  The hobby quickly grew into a passion that combined his keen interest in the history of the American West, his admiration of the American Indian and appreciation of art.  The official name of the gallery is the - Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery - in honour of his aunt.

Visiting this gallery reminded me of the important role philanthropists play in shaping the culture of cities.

Alberta's first library, Calgary's Memorial Park Library built in 1912 was funded in part by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  More info at: Memorial Park History

Alberta's first library, Calgary's Memorial Park Library built in 1912 was funded in part by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  More info at: Memorial Park History

The Importance of Philanthropists

The Andrew Carnegie philanthropic legacy is legendary – he helped fund 2,509 libraries around the world from 1883 to 1929, including Calgary’s Memorial Park Library.

In Seattle, Paul Allen funded the entire cost of the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly Experience Music Project) and its Frank Gehry signature building in 2006.

In Mexico City, Carlos Slim did the same - building the striking Museo Soumaya in 2011 to house his 70,000 works of art including hundreds of modern masters. These two iconic museums have been the catalysts for creating urban vitality in their immediate neighbourhoods. The free admission helps the Museo Soumaya attract over 1 million visitors a year.

Then there’s Robert J. Ulrich, former CE0 & Chairman of Target. He funded the creation and operations of the world-class Musical Instruments Museum in Scottsdale and the acquisition of 15,000 instruments from 200 countries. Using the Target design and construction team, it took just five years from conception to completion.

Museo Soumaya is an outstanding building inside and out. Link: Museums of Mexico City

Museo Soumaya is an outstanding building inside and out. Link: Museums of Mexico City

The facade of Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture is an ever changing work of abstract art. 

The facade of Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture is an ever changing work of abstract art. 

Calgary’s Cultural Philanthropists

Perhaps Calgary’s greatest cultural philanthropist is Eric Harvie who helped establish the Glenbow Museum when his Glenbow Foundation donated 200,000 artifacts and $6 million (the equivalent of $45 million today and matched by the Province) to create the museum, which opened in 1966.

Calgary's Jack Singer Concert Hall is part of Arts Commons complex, which is one of the largest performing arts complexes in North America with four theatres and one concert hall. 

Calgary's Jack Singer Concert Hall is part of Arts Commons complex, which is one of the largest performing arts complexes in North America with four theatres and one concert hall. 

In the ‘80s, Max Bell and Martha Cohen each donated $1 million towards the construction of the Calgary Performing Arts Centre (now Arts Commons) for naming rights to the two theatres, while Jack Singer donated $1.5 million to get the concert hall naming rights. 

In 2006, the Taylor Family became Calgary’s biggest cultural philanthropists with a $25 million donation to the University of Calgary to build the Taylor Family Digital Library and Quadrangle (total cost $206 million). This was followed, in 2010, by a $21 million donation to Mount Royal University to build the Taylor Family Performing Arts Centre and Bella Concert Hall at a cost of $90 million.

There are also a number of Calgary philanthropists – past and present - who donate to cultural endeavours without attaching their name to a building.

Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University is one of Calgary's newest cultural gems. Link: TCPA Profile

Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University is one of Calgary's newest cultural gems. Link: TCPA Profile

For example, Ron Mannix’s support of the arts began in 1987 with the $750,000 purchase of the Carthy Organ for the Jack Singer Concert Hall. 

That was the genesis for his support of the International Organ Festival and Competition from 1990 to 2002, as well as building a collection of over 1,000 keyboard instruments. In 2003, he funded the creation of the Cantos Music Foundation in the historic Customs House building to house his growing collection and offer music programs. Cantos was the catalyst for the development of the National Music Centre, which houses his now 2,000+ rare instruments and artifact collection.

One of the most unique and ambitious examples of cultural philanthropy in Calgary is that of Jim and Sue Hill who not only built Inglewood’s Atlantic Avenue Art Block with a 15,000 square foot public art gallery on the top floor, but also fund operating costs and the curation, shipping and installation of three impressive contemporary exhibitions each year.  FYI: Admission is free!

Esker Foundation Art Gallery is located on the top floor of the Atlantic Avenue Arts Block in Calgary's historic Inglewood community. Link: Esker Foundation Art Gallery 

Esker Foundation Art Gallery is located on the top floor of the Atlantic Avenue Arts Block in Calgary's historic Inglewood community. Link: Esker Foundation Art Gallery 

WANTED: More Cultural Philanthropists

The Basha Gallery got me thinking there should be a similar museum at Stampede Park, a “must-see” museum showcasing the Stampede’s 100+ year connection to western art, cowboy art, indigenous people and rodeo culture. An IMAX theatre attached would allow visitors to enjoy the “spills and thrills” of the Stampede experience (rodeo, chuckwagon races, midway, grandstand show) year-round.  You would think in Calgary there would be a few philanthropists who would be all over this idea. 

In reality, there aren’t many cultural philanthropists in our city. Both the Glenbow and Arts Commons have struggled for 15 years to find the funds needed to update spaces to meet 21st century expectations. One cultural champion told me there are probably only a dozen individuals in Calgary who are million dollar plus cultural philanthropists.

The philanthropy world has changed significantly since Eric Harvie’s day. Cultural groups now have to compete with schools, hospitals and illness groups (which used to be fully funded by governments) as well as newer groups (e.g. environmental) that didn’t exist in the 60s.

Free First Thursdays at the Glenbow have become very popular. 

Free First Thursdays at the Glenbow have become very popular. 

Last Word

Great cities have several thriving museums, galleries, libraries, concert halls and theatres, each helping to manifest a sense of the city’s unique past and present.

Great cultural places are critical not only to creating an attractive City Centre for Calgarians to work, live and visit, but are also key to a successful economic development and tourism marketing and branding initiatives.  

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

Postcards From Musical Instruments Museum

Glenbow: Strokes of Genius

Rise of Public Art, Fall of Public Art Galleries

Calgary's 2018 Festival Fun For Everyone!

Cities are often defined by their signature festivals - Edinburgh and Edmonton by their Fringe Festivals, Montreal by its Jazz and Comedy Festivals, New Orleans by Mardi Gras, Quebec City by Winter Carnival and Rio de Janerio by Carnival.

Similarly, Calgary is known internationally as the Stampede City, the result of the 100+ year old Calgary Stampede. However, over the past few decades Calgary has become more than just the Stampede. Spruce Meadows has made Calgary the show jumping capital of North America. Beakerhead celebrates Calgary’s emergence as an international engineering and science hub. And SLED Island reflects Calgary’s evolution as a budding new music city.

For anyone considering a visit Calgary in 2018, here is the line-up the City’s major festivals - something for almost everyone!

High Performance Rodeo, Jan 3 to 28

In 1987, Calgary’s One Yellow Rabbit collective of artists produced the “Secret Elevator Experimental Performance Festival,” renamed the following year as the “High Performance Rodeo.” Over the past 30+ years it has evolved into one of North America’s best contemporary art festivals, featuring local and international theatre, music, dance and visual arts, a true multidisciplinary celebration of the arts.  This year it offers up 23 sizzling shows, 153 performances at 15 different venues.

Link: High Performance Rodeo

Friends highly recommend the 10-minute play festival, they have attended every year for the past 20+ years.

Friends highly recommend the 10-minute play festival, they have attended every year for the past 20+ years.

Big Taste, Mar 2 to 11

Foodies won’t want to miss the Big Taste where 80+ restaurants in City Centre offer special 3-course fix price menus for lunch and dinner.  There is even a Gourmet Big Taste 5-course dinner for $65. The Big Taste is Canada’s oldest restaurant festival and offers a chance to experience Calgary’s contemporary dining scene – Cotto, Pad Thai, Foreign Concept, Yellow Door, Pigeonhole, Bar Vonder Fels, Charbar, Model Milk, need I go on.

Link: Big Taste

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Calgary Performing Arts Festival, April 23 to May 13

In 1931, a small group of Calgary musicians created The Calgary Music Festival held at the Knox United Church. By 1954, the festival was so large the organizers asked the Kiwanis Clubs of Calgary to take ownership of the Festival, and became the Calgary Kiwanis Festival. It continued to evolve into one of the largest amateur competitive music festivals in North America by the end of the 20th century.  In 2014, the festival included theatre, resulting in another name change - The Calgary Performing Arts Festival.

Today, the Festival has over 4,000 entries and 12,000 participants performing in the new Taylor Centre for Performing Arts Centre at Mount Royal University.

Link: Calgary Performing Arts Festival

Last minute practice...(photo credit: Calgary Performing Arts Festival)

Last minute practice...(photo credit: Calgary Performing Arts Festival)

Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, April 26 to 29

Calgary Expo is a four-day mash-up of comics, sci-fi, gaming and cosplay fun for all ages. In addition to headliners, hundreds of vendors, workshops and talks and costumes transform Calgary’s Stampede Park into a colourful fantasyland for over 100,000 visitors. Don’t miss the parade on the Friday - everyone can participate as long as you dress-up!

Link: Calgary Expo

Everyone loves a parade, especially one's with princesses and super heroes!

Everyone loves a parade, especially one's with princesses and super heroes!

Calgary International Children’s Festival, May 23 to 26

Established in 1987, the Calgary International Children’s Festival has grown to become Canada’s second largest Children’s Festival. Each year it not only transforms the four theatres and concert hall of Arts Commons into a giant children’s playground, but the surrounding Olympic Plaza as well. A wonderful festival for the young and the young at heart.

Link: Calgary International Children's Festival

Outdoor performances at Olympic Plaza a free and fun for everyone. (photo credit: Calgary Arts Development)

Outdoor performances at Olympic Plaza a free and fun for everyone. (photo credit: Calgary Arts Development)

4th Street Lilac, Festival June 3

Join 100,000+ Calgary in celebrating the arrival of spring at the 4th Street Lilac Festival.  The street comes alive with six stages and 500 vendors creating Calgary’s best street party along 4th Street SW from the Elbow River to 17th Avenue SW.

Link: 4th Street Lilac Festival

Finally Spring has arrived in Calgary (photo credit: Carpe Diem!)

Finally Spring has arrived in Calgary (photo credit: Carpe Diem!)

Spruce Meadows, June to September

Spruce Meadows is one of North America’s most unique festival sites, offering not one, but five major international show jumping events annually – National (June 6 to 10th), Continental (June 13 to 17), North American, (July 4 to 8th) Pan American (June 26 to July 1st) and Masters (Sept 5 to 8th).  If you love horses, this is a “must see.”

Link: Spruce Meadows

Family fun at Spruce Meadows (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Family fun at Spruce Meadows (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Sled Island, June 20 to 24

Sled Island Music & Arts Festival is a curated mash-up of music genres and art with more than 250 events at 35 different venues (record stores to Olympic Plaza) including bands, comedy, films and exhibitions involving local and international headliners and emerging artists.

Link: Sled Island

Crosss @ Tubby Dog (photo credit: Sled Island Photo)

Crosss @ Tubby Dog (photo credit: Sled Island Photo)

Calgary Stampede, July 6 to 15

Billed as the “Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth,” the Calgary Stampede combines a 2-hour long parade attracting over 200,000+ people, as well as a Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Grandstand Show, Agricultural Exhibition, Midway, Indian Village and Music Festival (headliners have included Garth Brooks, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Reba McEntire) that attracts over one million visitors of all ages and backgrounds to Stampede Park.  

Link: Calgary Stampede

Stampede is seven festivals in one - Agricultural Exhibition, Indian Village, Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Grandstand Show, Midway and Music Festival. 

Stampede is seven festivals in one - Agricultural Exhibition, Indian Village, Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Grandstand Show, Midway and Music Festival. 

Calgary International Folk Festival, July 26 to 29

No city can match the pastoral setting of Calgary International Folk Festival held at Prince’s Island Park located in the middle of the majestic Bow River and in the shadows of Calgary’s glittering downtown skyscrapers. It’s a magical place with glowing sunsets each night on the Main Stage headliners like Coeur De Pirate, Tanya Tagaq or Blue Rodeo in 2017. During the day, enjoy the six stages for an up close and personal experience under the canopy of 100-year old cottonwood trees.

Link: Calgary International Folk Festival

It doesn't get any better than this!

It doesn't get any better than this!

Historic Calgary Week, July 27 to August 6

For history buffs, don’t miss the hundreds of lectures and walkabouts lead by local history enthusiasts organized by Chinook Country Historical Society.  Learn all about Calgary’s boom/bust evolution from the Blackfoot nation’s summer meeting place, to the pioneer settlers, to becoming one of North America’s leading corporate headquarters cities.

Link: Historic Calgary Week

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 GlobalFest, August 16 to 25

GlobalFest burst (pun intended) onto the scene in 2003, a collaborative effort that combines an international fireworks competition with a multicultural night market. Held in Calgary’s Elliston Park with its man-made lake, just off International Avenue (aka 17th Ave SE) it celebrates Calgary’s multiculturalism.  The American Bus Association ranked it in the Top 100 Events in North America.

Link: GlobalFest

GlobalFest fireworks (photo credit: GlobalFest and J&J Photography)

GlobalFest fireworks (photo credit: GlobalFest and J&J Photography)

Shaw Classic / Tour Champions, August 29th to September 2

Calgary is not only home to many world-class golf courses, but also to one of the premier PGA TOUR Champions events attracting one of the best international line-ups of the season.  In 2017, the Shaw Classic had one of the largest audiences of any TOUR Champions event and set a TOUR Champions fundraising record of $8.3 million for local charities.  It is a great opportunity to watch some of the greatest golfers of our time – Fred Couples loves this tournament!

Link: Shaw Classic

The Shaw Classic attracts all of the best players from the Champions TOUR, including Fred Couples, Hal Irwin, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez....

The Shaw Classic attracts all of the best players from the Champions TOUR, including Fred Couples, Hal Irwin, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez....

Honens Piano Competition, August 30 to September 8

If you love classical music and the piano, don’t miss the Honens International Piano Competition. The quarterfinals are in Berlin and New York this spring, but the semifinals and finals are in Calgary.  The winner gets $100,000 in cash and an artist development program valued at half a millions dollars – the largest of its kind. 

Link: Honens Piano Competition

Beakerhead, Sept 19 to 23

Beakerhead, perhaps one of the most unique festivals in the world, is a wonderfully bizarre combination of science, engineering and the arts.  It encompasses 60+ events, installations and shows throughout the City Centre over five days and attracts over 125,000 participants.  Bring the entire family - including grandma and grandpa.

Link: Beakerhead

Beakerhead seems to be especially popular with teens and 20 somethings....

Beakerhead seems to be especially popular with teens and 20 somethings....

Calgary International Film Festival,  (2018 dates needed)

For the past 17 years, Calgary has hosted “the best little film festival on the prairies.”  0ver 200 films in multiple genres are screened over 12 days attracting 40,000 cineophiles.  The Calgary Film Festival is recognized as one of the top “short film” festivals in the world. 

Link: Calgary International Film Festival

Wordfest, Oct 9 to 14

Over the past 22 years, Wordfest has showcased over 900 writers conducting readings, workshops, and panel discussions.  Last year, 70 events attracted 15,000 people of all ages including children.  Its year-round literary program culminates with this October festival featuring international best-sellers, groundbreakers and up-and-coming authors.  

Link: Wordfest

(photo credit: Wordfest)

(photo credit: Wordfest)

Christmas In Calgary

ZOOLIGHTS,  Nov 23 to Jan 5 2019

At Christmas, 1.5 million lights transform the Calgary Zoo into a winter wonderland.  It takes about 90 minutes to fully experience the displays. In addition, there is a mix of indoor (crafts, pictures with Santa) and outdoor activities (skating, fire pits) for all ages.

Link: ZOOLIGHTS

(photo credit: Condo Living Magazine)

(photo credit: Condo Living Magazine)

Spruce Meadows Christmas Market

Nov 16–18, Nov 23–25, & Nov 30-Dec 2

The Spruce Meadows Christmas Market gives Calgarians a shopping experience filled with entertainment, delicious food, and unique gift buying opportunities.  300+ vendors spread Christmas Spirit in the indoor comfort of Spruce Meadows’ various buildings.  Kids love Reindeer Alley, Candy Cane Lane and listening to various choirs, instrumental performances and magical dance displays amongst the 74 kilometres of Christmas lights strung around the grounds. (Seniors (65+) and Children (-12) admitted free.

Link: Spruce Meadows Christmas Market

Spruce Meadows Christmas Market (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Spruce Meadows Christmas Market (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Lions’ Festival of Lights, Dec 1 to Jan 7

Each year the Lions Clubs of Calgary create a free Festival of Lights in Confederation Park incorporating over 450,000 bulbs on 16,000 strings into various Holiday characters.  The festival is unique as you can enjoy it many different ways – drive-by on 14th St NW, walk, snowshoe, cross-country ski or even toboggan down the hills amongst the display. Lights are on from 6 pm to midnight, 7 days a week. 

Link: Lion's Festival of Lights

Tobogganers having fun at Lion's Festival of Lights

Tobogganers having fun at Lion's Festival of Lights

Last Word

In addition to these signature festivals, Calgary has numerous smaller festivals year round that serve niche groups, especially in film and music. For more information check out Tourism Calgary’s website: http://www.visitcalgary.com/things-to-do/festivals-events

Everyday Tourist Calgary Festival Blog Links:

Everyday Tourist Visits Calgary Expo 2016

Postcards from 2016 Calgary Folk Festival

Calgary Historic Walks