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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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