Sunalta: Ripe For Redevelopment!

While Calgary’s Beltline (i.e. the community south of the CPR tracks) gets most of the attention as downtown’s funky bedroom community, Sunalta south of the tracks and west of 14th Street SW (some think of it as lower Scarboro) is quietly evolving into a hip City Centre community.  

Rumour has it the name is a contraction of “Sunny Alberta.”

Robots & Pencils front yard is very fun.

Robots & Pencils front yard is very fun.

The Sunalta Community Centre makes a bold statement with its farm-like architecture and colour.

The Sunalta Community Centre makes a bold statement with its farm-like architecture and colour.

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Mishmash?

For many Calgarians, their image of Sunalta is a mishmash of small residential and commercial buildings, viewed while driving along 10th, 11th, and 12th Avenues. However, venture south of 12th Avenue you will find charming tree-lined streets with lovely century homes, reflecting Sunalta’s history which dates back to the early 20th century when the CPR extended the city’s boundaries westward.  

Currently, Sunalta is home to 3,215 Calgarians (2016 census) most of whom are singles or couples without children. It is home to the historic Sacred Heart Church, Calgary Tennis Club, Sunalta School and Sacred Heart Church.  Its LRT Station is perhaps Calgary’s most dramatic station, rising 15 meters (five storeys) above the street.   

One Way Foods & Deli is just one of Sunalta’s fun hidden gems. Best banana bread in town!

One Way Foods & Deli is just one of Sunalta’s fun hidden gems. Best banana bread in town!

It is hoped that in the future the Sunalta LRT station and plaza will become a hub for a vibrant 10th Ave Main Street.

It is hoped that in the future the Sunalta LRT station and plaza will become a hub for a vibrant 10th Ave Main Street.

New mural at the Sunalta LRT Station

New mural at the Sunalta LRT Station

Sacred Heart Church add as nice historical element to Sunalta.

Sacred Heart Church add as nice historical element to Sunalta.

Sunalta is an incubator for small businesses.

Sunalta is an incubator for small businesses.

Sunalta has perhaps the best tree canopied streets in Calgary.

Sunalta has perhaps the best tree canopied streets in Calgary.

Sunalta is home to dozens of charming two-storey century homes that fit nicely with the contemporary new infills.

Sunalta is home to dozens of charming two-storey century homes that fit nicely with the contemporary new infills.

Calgary Tennis Club Cafe is a hidden gem.

Calgary Tennis Club Cafe is a hidden gem.

10th Ave SW Arts & Craft District

Did you know Sunalta has its own arts hub? The block west of 19th St SW along 10th Avenue is home to West Village Theatre, EMMEDIA Gallery & Production, Motion Gallery, Quickdraw Animation Society and Ghost River Theatre.  Rubiayat Stained Glass Studio, Levis Fine Art Auctions, Appraisals & Art Storage, as well as one of Calgary best contemporary private galleries - Herringer Kiss Gallery are all located along or near 10th Avenue. And the Pumphouse Theatre is just the other side of Bow Trail. 

You know a community is on the rise when it gets its own craft brewery. Two House Brewing Company (opened in July 2019) at 1516 - 10th Ave offers an attractive patio, as well as great beer and food.

FYI: The name comes from the two historic homes – McCall and McIntosh – that front the large warehouse where the brewery is located. 

Two House Brewhouse is a great addition to Sunalta’s urban playground.

Two House Brewhouse is a great addition to Sunalta’s urban playground.

Back alley entrance to the West Village Theatre space. This building includes several other arts groups.

Back alley entrance to the West Village Theatre space. This building includes several other arts groups.

Truck Gallery’s Contemporary Art Mobile Public Exhibition Rig is parked in the same alley.

Truck Gallery’s Contemporary Art Mobile Public Exhibition Rig is parked in the same alley.

Millennial Appeal

The Sentry Box is a mecca for gamers and those interested in fantasy, science fiction, military games, books and miniatures.  Stocking over 100,000 different items, it is Canada’s largest gaming store.  

A hidden gem on 10th Avenue is All Season Motorsports a boutique shop offering numerous different sports rentals – motorcycles, sea-doos, ski-doos, ATVs, dirt bikes and scooters.

And, while 14th Street from 10th Avenue to 17th Ave SW is currently an eclectic collection of businesses, it has the potential to become a fun restaurant row – with Cluck N Cleaver, Ke Charcoal Grill & Sushi and Boyd’s Lobster Shop on the Sunalta side of the street.  

Businesses like SmartyPantz Escape Room, Zoe’s (Thrift) Store, Tri It Multisport (boutique sports equipment store) and Robots and Pencils (app developer) are all indicators that Sunalta has millennial appeal. 

The newest development is the opening of a Mediterranean corner store, Tiba’s Grocery and Convenience, in the old Fair’s Fair bookstore location at the corner of 17th Ave and 14th Street SW.  

Obviously Sunalta, has lots to offer in the way of “a place to live” amenities for millennials and even some empty nesters too. 

Sentry Box is huge. If they don’t have, you don’t need it!

Sentry Box is huge. If they don’t have, you don’t need it!

Robots & Pencils’ front yard is a reminder that Sunalta is home to numerous fun, funky and quirky small businesses.

Robots & Pencils’ front yard is a reminder that Sunalta is home to numerous fun, funky and quirky small businesses.

Show us the development

One would have thought the opening of the Sunalta LRT Station in 2012 would have been the catalyst for high-rise residential development by now.  But to date there has been no major new development. 

This could soon change as former Mayor Dave Bronconnier is championing a major project at the corner of 14th St and 10th Ave SW – i.e. a two tower residential building with retail at street along 10th Ave SW.  The project would add 353 new homes, including 71 affordable homes.  

The proposed development fits with Sunalta’s current Area Redevelopment Plan which calls for 10th Ave to become a pedestrian main street with the LRT Station plaza and the Sunalta Community Centre Park as its public spaces. 

And, further south on 14th St SW at 17th Avenue, the Arlington Group is working on getting approval for Sentinel another two tower residential development on the northwest corner where the funky blue roofed Condon Building currently sits.  Its plan calls for the bottom two floors to be retail (including grocery store) with 600 new residential homes above.  

These two residential developments alone could add up to 1,500 new residents to Sunalta, as well as new retail, restaurant and café spaces – game changers for Sunalta. 

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Link: Arlington’s Sentinel Project

Last Word

While no major new residential construction has started yet, Jenn Balderston, Sunalta Community Association’s Executive Director says “both developers have been great at engaging the community about their plans and being transparent.” And she is pleased they “have included retail at street level and are paying attention to enhancing the public realm by widening sidewalks, having great lighting, greenery, bike parking and street patios.”

Balderston is quick to note while Sunalta lacks a big grocery store, ”One Way Foods” is more than just a convenience store - it is a popular grocer for many Sunaltans! She encouraged me to try their famous banana bread, which I plan to do.  

Indeed, Sunalta is ripe for redevelopment. 

Note: An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald, October 5 2019.

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