Future of Eau Claire Market?
Harvard Development’s ambitious Eau Claire Market redevelopment master plan announced in 2013 called for the creation of about 800,000 sf office space (think two 30-storey office buildings), 800,000 sf of residential space (8,000 units at 1,000 square feet per unit), 600,000 square feet of retail (three times the existing Eau Claire Market) and 200,000 sf hotel (think Alt Hotel in East Village).
Though probably the right plan in 2013 if it had been executed immediately, it is likely not the right plan for the 2020s given what is happening in East Village and proposed for Victoria Park. Both of those projects benefit from the Community Revitalization Levy that has - and will -pump hundreds of millions of tax dollars into those communities to make them attractive places to live, work and play.
As well, several residential developments under construction or approved for Beltline, Bridgeland and elsewhere in Eau Claire that probably make more economic sense than the massive Eau Claire Market site redevelopment.
So, it is really no surprise Harvard has delayed its plans given there is a glut of office and residential space available in Calgary’s City Centre. Several new hotels have also opened – Alt Hotel and Hilton Garden Inn (both in East Village) and the Beltline’s new Marriott Residence Inn. PBA Land and Development has plans for The Dorian, a 27-storey 300 room hotel and Calgary Municipal Land Development is actively courting a new hotel as part of the BMO Centre expansion.
If that isn’t bad enough, retail is struggling throughout the entire City Center from 17th Avenue SW to Kensington.
Now is simply just not the time for a mega new mixed use development in the downtown and it is likely to be 10+ years before anything major new development will be built downtown.
In a recent column about the success of the Avenida Food Hall, I suggested Eau Claire Market’s best bet might be to convert itself back to a “Food Hall” as times have changed - there are more neighbouring condos and office buildings today than there were in the ‘90s to support a food hall complex, and Calgarians have become more food savvy and love the farm to table concept.
On Saturday, April 13 the City of Calgary hosted a drop-in session at Eau Claire Market seeking public input on how to redesign Eau Claire to “create great public spaces that will make it a great place to live, work, play and shop and help attract long-term growth and development.” The City’s words, not mine.
Joyce Tang, Program Manager at the City of Calgary told me the public wanted “a greater emphasis on event programming and patio spaces in Eau Claire Plaza. People wanted to see spaces for markets and events, along with areas for recreation along the Prince’s Island lagoon.”
Indeed, they want what East Village has. They don’t just want pretty public spaces, but someone to program them like Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) does for the East Village space. CMLC has a team of three full-time staff managing events year-round - everything from free days at the National Music Centre to food truck festivals, from concerts to outdoor yoga.
One of the unintended consequences creating first class public spaces in East Village and the aggressive programing of those spaces is that all City Centre communities – Beltline, Bridgeland/Riverside, Hillhurst and Inglewood now want the same quality spaces and programing. Unfortunately, they don’t have the benefit of a CMLC and a Community Revitalization Levy to make that happen.