Enhancing Established Community Development: Multifamily

If the City of Calgary is serious about wanting more Calgarians to live in established neighbourhoods there are three initiatives (perhaps they could be New Year resolutions) Council could undertake in 2015 that would benefit the City, homebuyers and developers.

  1. Make Multifamily Development a permitted use
  2. Subdivision and Development Appeal Board reform
  3. Remove bureaucracy

Over the next three weeks, we will look at each one of these initiatives beginning with “making multi-family development a permitted use.” 

The Problem

I know of a recent case where the City Planner thought it would be a good idea to ask the developer to create homes that face both the street and back alley. The developer agreed and proceeded to create a design that would accommodate both street and laneway homes. The Community Association was on side with the design when it was presented to them. But a couple of neighbours didn’t want to share the back alley with the new homes, so they appealed the decision - and won. 

Parkdale boutique infill condo project is not much taller than some of the new single-family, mega mansions in the community.

Parkdale boutique infill condo project is not much taller than some of the new single-family, mega mansions in the community.

Now, after more than a year of debate, it is back to the drawing board for the developer. The net result is the new project will have more expensive homes, as the developer needs to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the first design and community engagement. This is an example of just one of the lost opportunities to build more affordable homes in established communities in a timely manner as allowed by the existing zoning rules.   And, I know this isn’t an isolate example.

Calgary’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP) is a comprehensive document that will guide Calgary’s growth over the next 40 or more years.  One of its stated goals is to encourage 33% of future housing growth to be accommodated within the city’s developed area (established or existing communities); this means 80,000 new housing units, or approximately 2,000 new condo and townhomes per year.

The Plan recognizes that as Calgary evolves and society changes so does Calgarians’ housing wants and needs. Fifty years ago single-family homes dominated every new community in Calgary - Lakeview, University Heights or Acadia. But this changed starting about 2010 with the increased demand for multi-family housing mostly by young professionals, empty nesters and affordable first homes for young families.

In fact from 2003 to 2013, 74% of all new housing units in Calgary were multi-family condos and apartments or row housing, however, 90% were in new suburbs.  The dilemma is that in established communities there is always a vocal minority who has difficulty accepting multi-family housing in their neighbourhood.  This makes building new multi-family buildings in established communities, difficult and expensive.

Row or Townhomes in Currie Barracks create an attractive streetscape with their diversity of facades and hidden density - no side yards. 

Row or Townhomes in Currie Barracks create an attractive streetscape with their diversity of facades and hidden density - no side yards. 

Permitted vs. Discretionary Uses

The City of Calgary’s Land Use Bylaw zones all land in the city for specific uses e.g. Commercial, Residential or Industrial. The Bylaw even goes further to specify what types of buildings can be built on residential land e.g. single-family, town-homes or multi-family.  It even dictates what size of multi-family building can be built - how many units, how high and how many parking stalls are needed, just to name a few of the requirements. 

While the City has several multi-family, land-use categories, that define what size of multi-family building you can create on a specific piece of land, it is still at the City’s discretion if they will let a developer build a multi-family building on the land they have purchase at a cost that reflects the approved multi-family zoning i.e. the more density the land is zoned for the higher the land cost.  However, with discretionary use, it means the developer first has to buy the land, design the project and then present their plan to City, community and neighbouring landowners to and then they must wait to see if the City will allow them to build their project even if it meets all of the City’s approved conditions for development.  This is a very time consuming and costly way to foster multi-family development in established communities.

University City is an attractive (some don't like the bright colours, I do) and affordable phased multi-family project adjacent to the Brentwood LRT Station. It transform a parking lot into a village and adds to the diversity of housing in the community. The City wants and needs to capitalize on its investment in LRT with projects like these at every LRT station.

University City is an attractive (some don't like the bright colours, I do) and affordable phased multi-family project adjacent to the Brentwood LRT Station. It transform a parking lot into a village and adds to the diversity of housing in the communityThe City wants and needs to capitalize on its investment in LRT with projects like these at every LRT station.

The Solution

Make multi-family developments a “permitted” use on land zoned for multi-family development - not discretionary.  If the proposed development meets all the approved standards (which have already been debated when the Land Use Zoning was approved by City Council) for the site (e.g. parking, height, landscaping, density and setback), it gets approved without debate.  If a proposed development meets the existing rules as approved by the City and community, shouldn’t the project simply get approved without debate? If not, what was the point of creating the rules in the first place? If the proposal requires relaxation from the approved requirements only then should the project is open for debate and approval at the City’s discretion.

As it is, today all new multi-family projects are discretionary use, which means planners and the community get to comment on everything from the aesthetics of the roofline and window placements, to door colour and tree planting.  When I was on Calgary Planning Commission, I remember reading a community association’s letter saying, “we would like each unit to have granite countertops.”

As one might expect, debating the merits of a development can take months, even years, to get approval with so many different knowledge bases and aesthetic sensibilities.  There is no perfect development for everyone. Everyone might like the proposal except for a small component (and in fact it is often a different component for each person who is opposed to the development) and you end up with a refusal.

Or you get approval from the City, but one or more individuals appeal the project to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, which can then delay the project for several months, which will be the subject of next week’s column.

Savoy condos, with main floor retail, on Kensington Road in West Hillhurst are located within walking distance to downtown and SAIT and have excellent bus connections to University of Calgary, Foothills Medical Centre complex and downtown. Increasing the density of people living along Kensington Road could be the catalyst for its transformation into a Main Street. 

Savoy condos, with main floor retail, on Kensington Road in West Hillhurst are located within walking distance to downtown and SAIT and have excellent bus connections to University of Calgary, Foothills Medical Centre complex and downtown. Increasing the density of people living along Kensington Road could be the catalyst for its transformation into a Main Street. 

Last Word

I am told Edmonton developers and planners get a chuckle when told “multi-family developments are a “discretionary use” in Calgary, even when they are on land zoned for multi-family buildings.   This alone should be the catalyst for a change in Calgary’s Land-Use Bylaw in 2015. 

Richard White, January 25, 2015 (this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's New Condo section on January 24, 2015 with the title "A call to streamline the approval process."

If you like this blog, you might like:

 

 

 

Tale of Three Calgary Pedestrian Bridges

Calgary is blessed with almost 1,000 km of pathways (one of the world’s largest urban pathways) used by pedestrians, runners and cyclists year-round.  One of the key elements of the pathways system is its pedestrian bridges which range from “plain jane” functional bridges to multi-million dollar iconic bridges designed by world renowned architects and engineers.  Some have been created with much controversy, while others have flown under the radar.  

This is the story of three recently completed pedestrian bridges that I have been following for several years – Bow Trail, Peace and St. Patrick’s Island bridges.

 Calgary’s “Other Red Bridge”

While the Peace Bridge and St. Patrick’s Island bridges got all the media attention, the new pedestrian bridge over Bow Trail at the western entrance into the downtown just quietly got built. As a minor element in the massive billion-dollar West LRT project, there was no international design completion, nor any elaborate public engagement process. The design was given to two local engineers - Edmund Ho and Monty Knaus of Calgary’s MMM GROUP.

In their 2014 Transportation Association of Canada (Structures Session) Conference presentation, the bridge is described as a “rotated-ellipse arch,” but most people just see it as a representation or interpretation of Calgary’s iconic Chinook Arch. In my mind, there couldn’t be a more appropriate design for one of the downtown’s key gateways, seen by 100,000+ Calgarians and visitors who pass under it, cross over it or by it (Crowchild Trail) every day.

Its Canada Flag red colour helps make it stand out against the dramatic Calgary sky that can range anywhere from pure white to deep blue. Usually I am the guy asking for more ornamentation, but in this case, the simplicity of the design works well. Who says engineers have no sense of urban design? It also offers one of the best views of Calgary’s stunning downtown vista, which becomes visible at exactly this point when travelling east.

This bridge is an important connection in Calgary’s pathway system as it provides a connection to the Bow River pathway for all of the communities west of Crowchild Trail and south of Bow Trail, for both leisure and commuter use. It also provides access to a bus stop on Bow Trail.

The bridge spans all six lanes of traffic as well as the LRT track, with a span length of 50 metres from end-to-end of the half ellipse and another 12 metres of deck supported by steel props on the south end of the bridge. Narrowest of the three bridges at only 3 metres wide; this means it has no room for segregated bike and pedestrian traffic.  It also has no lighting on the bridge itself; though there are street lamps that lights up both the bridge for nighttime use. Note: The City was unable to give me the cost of this bridge as it was buried in the cost of the West LRT project, but in chatting with engineers the thought is the cost would be in the $6M range (this is the smallest of the three bridges).

The Bow Trail Bridge opened in December 2011, if you haven’t visited it, you should check it out for its spectacular view. 

The sky view from the Bow Trail bridge. 

The sky view from the Bow Trail bridge. 

Currently the bridge connects an old seniors cottage village and park, as well as being a key link in Calgary's nearly 1,000 km pathway system.  Plans are currently being developed to transform the seniors site into a more mixed-use urban village with seniors as the focus. 

Currently the bridge connects an old seniors cottage village and park, as well as being a key link in Calgary's nearly 1,000 km pathway system.  Plans are currently being developed to transform the seniors site into a more mixed-use urban village with seniors as the focus. 

The bridge spans the river of buses, trains and automobiles entering and exiting the Downtown along Bow Trail. 

The bridge spans the river of buses, trains and automobiles entering and exiting the Downtown along Bow Trail. 

A Chinook Arch which was the inspiration for the Bow Trail bridge. 

A Chinook Arch which was the inspiration for the Bow Trail bridge. 

The city vista from the Bow Trail bridge is stunning.

The city vista from the Bow Trail bridge is stunning.

Peace Bridge 

The Calatrava (the world famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was the designer) Bridge, which later became the Peace Bridge had very strict requirements because of the environmental sensitivity of the Bow River (one of the great fly fishing rivers in the world), no piers in the water (in an effort to minimize the ecological footprint) and restricted height (due to the nearby  heliport).  The bridge also had to meet the following specifications:

  • Withstand Calgary's one-in-100 year flood cycle (who knew this would happen only one year after its completion)
  • Minimum 75-year life span
  • Barrier free access for people of all mobility types
  • Sufficient light so public felt comfortable and secure at all times

Calatrava’s Peace Bridge is unique in that it is doesn't incorporate his signature asymmetric monochromatic white forms with anchored high masts and cables.

Calatrava's Chords Bridge for pedestrians and trains in Jerusalem. 

Calatrava's Chords Bridge for pedestrians and trains in Jerusalem. 

The candy cane red Peace Bridge name references the fact the bridge’s north side is on Memorial Drive, a boulevard that pays homage to Canada’s war and peacekeeping efforts over the past 100+ years. At the same time as the bridge was being built, Memorial Drive received a major makeover, creating a much more ceremonial street complete with the new Poppy Plaza, public art and ornamental lighting and decorative boulevard.

The bridge was steeped in controversy from day one for several reasons.  The cost ($20M+ was deemed too high by many for a pedestrian/cycling bridge). Why was it sole sourced? Why no pubic engagement? Was it even needed?

And then there were the delays. An independent inspection company was engaged to inspect all of the welds completed in Spain. Red flags were raised about the aesthetics and safety of the welds, which resulted in all the welds being ground down and redone on site. The bridge sat on the riverbank for months - covered in orange tarps like some Christo artwork - while welders redid all of the welds.

Funding for the Peace Bridge was provided through the City of Calgary’s Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program (TIIP), which defines the priority and timing of major infrastructure construction projects. One of the key elements of this program is to foster more pedestrian and cycling opportunities in high-density areas where these modes are more efficient at moving people, supporting land use and lessening environmental impacts. 

The final costs were $19.8M for construction, $3.45M for architectural and structural design and specialized and $1.25M in administration, quality assurance and insurance for a total of #24.5M.

The Peace Bridge is 126 meters long and 6 meters wide, making it twice as wide as a normal pedestrian bridge, allowing separate pedestrian and cycling lanes (not that you would know it as pedestrians walk wherever they want).  It is well lit to promote nighttime use.  The bridge originally to be opened in fall of 2010 didn’t open until March 2012.

Peace Bridge looking south into downtown over the glacier waters (green) of the Bow River. To me the bridge dominates the river, creating a bold "look at me" statement that takes away from the natural beauty of the setting and blocks rather than enhances the view of the city skyline and Prince's Island. 

Peace Bridge looking south into downtown over the glacier waters (green) of the Bow River. To me the bridge dominates the river, creating a bold "look at me" statement that takes away from the natural beauty of the setting and blocks rather than enhances the view of the city skyline and Prince's Island. 

The Peace Bridge is a popular place for a noon hour stroll or workout - it is an outdoor gym.  The skeleton-like structure creates interesting viewing vistas for those who stop, while at the same time blocking an expansive view of the river, the sky, park and skyline as you proceed along the bridge.  Visually it seems antagonistic, rather than synergistic with the natural setting. 

The Peace Bridge is a popular place for a noon hour stroll or workout - it is an outdoor gym.  The skeleton-like structure creates interesting viewing vistas for those who stop, while at the same time blocking an expansive view of the river, the sky, park and skyline as you proceed along the bridge.  Visually it seems antagonistic, rather than synergistic with the natural setting. 

Peace Bridge links the north and south side of the extensive Bow River pathways system for walkers, joggers and cyclists. It is like an impromptu parade at noon hour in the summer, which creates a wonderful urban vitality. 

Peace Bridge links the north and south side of the extensive Bow River pathways system for walkers, joggers and cyclists. It is like an impromptu parade at noon hour in the summer, which creates a wonderful urban vitality. 

St. Patrick's Island Bridge

While the cost of the St. Patrick’s Island Bridge was similar to the Peace Bridge, everything else about this bridge’s design and construction were different.  There was an international design competition attracting 33 local, national and international concepts. All designs were shared with the public - over 2,000 Calgarians participated in the engagement process. Kudos to Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) for managing what has become the public engagement model for major public projects in Calgary.

Eventually, the design of two engineering firms - RFR from Paris and Halsall Associates from Calgary – was chosen.  Their design was nicknamed the “skipping stone” bridge as its three arches reminded people of a child playing at the edge of the river skipping a stone off water - a fitting image for the urban playground image being fostered by CMLC for East Village, Riverwalk and St. Patrick’s Island.

In September 2012, construction crews began work, putting in place temporary berms, extending into the Bow River from the north and south banks, to support the base and bridge deck structure. The steel arches were manufactured by ADF Group Inc. in Montreal. The arch sections vary in size (32 to 99-metres long) and weight (70,000 kg to  200,000 kg), were then shipped by truck to Calgary where they were welded together on site and eventually lifted in place with a 250-tonne capacity crane. 

The bridge connects East Village to the charming Bridgeland neighbourhood, as well as provides a new attractive cycling commuter path to downtown from the northeast quadrant of the city.  It is also a key element of the mega-makeover currently underway on St. Patrick’s Island, which is currently being to transform it into a year-round meeting and activity place. It replaces an existing bridge near the west end of St. Patrick’s Island, which did not offer a direct connection to the north bank of the Bow River (all of the materials from the old bridge have been recycled in various ways).

Like the Peace Bridge, St. Patrick’s Bridge has been designed with sufficient width for pedestrians and cyclists, but it doesn't have segregated lanes. It does have purpose-built lighting on the sidewalk of the bridge, but not lighting on the arches which would have been beautiful against the dark river especially in the winter.  The total length of the bridge is 182 metres with a maximum bridge width of 10.7 metres and minimum width of 7.3 metres, making it the longest and widest of the three bridges. 

The St. Patrick’s Island Bridge opened in the fall of 2014 after a one-year delay due to the 2013 flood and with no controversy from beginning to end.

People of ages and backgrounds enjoy the East Village Riverwalk for various activities. The St. Patrick's Bridge is in the background under construction. 

People of ages and backgrounds enjoy the East Village Riverwalk for various activities. The St. Patrick's Bridge is in the background under construction. 

St. Patrick's Bridge has become a popular meeting place for walkers, joggers and cyclists.  It has some similarities to the Bow Trail Bridge with its Chinook Arch shape and great views of the dramatic downtown skyline and the prairie sky. The bridge has an elegance that seems to frame the river, skyline and sky without being overbearing. (Photograph by Mark Eleven Photography, extended in courtesy of CMCL.)

St. Patrick's Bridge has become a popular meeting place for walkers, joggers and cyclists.  It has some similarities to the Bow Trail Bridge with its Chinook Arch shape and great views of the dramatic downtown skyline and the prairie sky. The bridge has an elegance that seems to frame the river, skyline and sky without being overbearing. (Photograph by Mark Eleven Photography, extended in courtesy of CMCL.)

View of bridge from one of the Riverwalk platforms. You can see the three arches aka skipping stones, with one under the bridge. There is an elegance and fluidity in the design that works even in a winter sky. 

View of bridge from one of the Riverwalk platforms. You can see the three arches aka skipping stones, with one under the bridge. There is an elegance and fluidity in the design that works even in a winter sky. 

Last Word

There are many lessons learned from the tale of these three bridges. First, engineers can design engaging urban structures.  Second, it is critical to have local representation on any major Calgary design project, as they will bring a critical eye to reflecting Calgary’s unique sense of place. Third, there must be an effective public engagement process.

As well, a fourth lesson might be that it is not necessary to have an international design competition to ensure high quality urban design. Calgary has a strong, diverse, competent and experienced design community capable of creating great buildings, bridges and public spaces. I am convinced that if we really want to celebrate and express Calgary’s unique sense of place we will have to do it by engaging designers locally who understand and appreciate our urban culture and not import it form elsewhere.  

My personally favourite of the three bridges is the Bow Trail Bridge for its Calgary red colour (think Stampeders, Flames and Calgary Tower), uncomplicated design and subtle reference to one of Calgary’s signature differentiators - the Chinook Arch. 

If you like this blog, you might like:

Poppy Plaza Review

Plaza Design Dos & Don'ts

Calgary deserves more respect from international planners!

While flaneuring Winnipeg’s Sherbooke Street on a cold day last December, I happened upon a copy of Ken Greenberg’s book “Walking Home” or “The Life and Lessons of a City Builder” in the Salvation Army thrift store for a buck. Who could resist? Greenberg, born and raised in Brooklyn, NY is a highly respected new urban designer for over 25 years, working on projects internationally with Toronto as his base.  In 2008, he was engaged by Calgary Municipal Land Corporation to be part of the River walk design team.

The book reads a like an autobiography, but unlike entertainment stars who talk sex, drugs, relationships and life lessons, Greenberg talks only of urban design which can be a pretty boring subject except to urban nerds like me. What surprised me was how little he mentioned Calgary (just three times to be exact) given our City has been one of the fastest growing cities, (downtown, inner city and suburbs) over the past 25 years in North America.  It seemed every time he made a point about how great other cities were, I could find as good or better example from Calgary.  

Collaboration

Early in the book, Greenberg identifies “collaborations as the lifeblood of successful city building.” Later, he talks about private public partnerships, identifying organizations like Cityscape Institute in New York City and Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance both founded to foster the development of parks and public spaces citywide. 

Parks Foundation Calgary (PFC), founded in 1985, has been responsible for $150M in parks, playgrounds and pathway development. Greenberg can be forgiven for not mentioning PFC’s ambitious new project the 138 km The Rotary/Mattamy Greenway that will soon circle our city, given his book was published in 2011.

The historic Haultain School, home to the Parks Foundation Calgary, is appropriately located in Haultain Park and across the street from Memorial Park.

The historic Haultain School, home to the Parks Foundation Calgary, is appropriately located in Haultain Park and across the street from Memorial Park.

Public Spaces

Throughout the book he talks about the importance of rich and varied public spaces and the importance of the public realm (even devoting an entire chapter to “reclaiming the public realm”). He points to Scandinavian cities as having some of the best public spaces.   I was disappointed there was no mention of Calgary’s Stephen Avenue Walk and its evolution from a pedestrian only mall to an innovative flexible space that is a pedestrian mall by day and road at night. As a designer for the East Village River walk surely he was aware of the success of the Bow River Promenade in Eau Claire and Prince’s Island, one of the best downtown festival sites in the world. While I realize, Greenberg is more interested in urban spaces, I think it was a major oversight in my mind not to mention Calgary has the most extensive citywide pathway system in the world at nearly 1,000 km that links our suburbs, inner city and downtown communities.

When you talk about diversity of public spaces, you can’t get much more diverse than Calgary which offers everything from an urban skateboard parks to snowboard hills, from handicapped parks to Douglas Fir trail. Olympic plaza.  With over 5,200 parks and over 1,000 playgrounds, Calgary is the envy of almost every city.

The Stephen Avenue pedestrian mall is a unique experiment in urban placemaking. It is a pedestrian mall by day and one-way street by night. 

Century Gardens is a pastoral, urban oasis for downtown workers and residents. 

Century Gardens is a pastoral, urban oasis for downtown workers and residents. 

The Harley Hotchkiss Gardens is a popular meeting spot for downtown workers and shoppers. This public space is a good example of go urban design as it is built on top of a 700-stall parking garage, includes a major public artwork, has lots of seating and is directly linked to an LRT station. 

The Harley Hotchkiss Gardens is a popular meeting spot for downtown workers and shoppers. This public space is a good example of go urban design as it is built on top of a 700-stall parking garage, includes a major public artwork, has lots of seating and is directly linked to an LRT station. 

Urban Streets

Greenberg doesn’t even give Calgary a nod for the great work it has done in fostering the development of 9th Avenue in Inglewood, 10th Street and Kensington Road in Kensington Village; 4th Street in Mission, 17th and 11th Avenues and 1st Street in the Beltline.

Surely, Bridgeland’s renaissance as a result of the General Hospital’s “implosion” and plans for Calgary’s multi-billion dollar East Village mega-makeover (one of North America’s largest urban redevelopments) could have been worked into the text as urban experiments to watch.

The streets of Kensington Village are full of pedestrian oriented shops, making it one of Canada's best walkable urban neighbourhoods. 

The streets of Kensington Village are full of pedestrian oriented shops, making it one of Canada's best walkable urban neighbourhoods. 

One of the trendy ideas in North America these days it to transform street parking into pedestrian oriented spaces. Sometimes the parking spaces become patios or as in this case the patio is on the actual sidewalk and the parking spaces become a new sidewalk. 

One of the trendy ideas in North America these days it to transform street parking into pedestrian oriented spaces. Sometimes the parking spaces become patios or as in this case the patio is on the actual sidewalk and the parking spaces become a new sidewalk. 

Pedestrian oriented streetscapes exist in numerous Calgary communities like this one on 19th Ave NW in West Hillhurst.

Pedestrian oriented streetscapes exist in numerous Calgary communities like this one on 19th Ave NW in West Hillhurst.

Calgary also has its fair share of quirky cafes like this one in Ramsay's Industrial district. 

Calgary also has its fair share of quirky cafes like this one in Ramsay's Industrial district. 

Neighbourhood farmers' markets are also popular in Calgary. 

Neighbourhood farmers' markets are also popular in Calgary. 

Who says Calgary's City Centre isn't for families? The Beltline's Haultain Park is full of families using the playground, tennis courts and the playing field for a pick-up game of soccer. 

Who says Calgary's City Centre isn't for families? The Beltline's Haultain Park is full of families using the playground, tennis courts and the playing field for a pick-up game of soccer. 

Suburban Urbanization

While Greenberg talks endlessly about the need to urbanize existing suburban communities, he falls short on mentioning some efforts that have been made in cities like Calgary to create more diverse and dense suburban communities.  Calgary’s new master-planned communities are being created at a density that surpasses those of early 20th century communities with a mix of single-family, duplexes, four-plexes, town homes and condos designed with singles, families, empty-nesters and seniors in mind.

McKenzie Towne street.

McKenzie Towne street.

Surely too, he must have known about Calgary’s pioneering community of McKenzie Towne developed by Carma Developers LP, now Brookfield Residential in the mid '80s. 

Brookfield’s SETON project was also on the horizon in the late 2000s when Greenberg was busy researching and writing his book.  The idea of creating a new downtown at the edge of a major city with a mega teaching hospital as an anchor is both innovative and unique in North America’s quest to create a new suburban paradigm.

And what about Remington Development’s Quarry Park project? It definitely warranted a mention with its mix of office park, market place and residential development all linked to future LRT development. 

What city builds a transit-oriented village before the transit is even built e.g. Quarry Park and SETON!

Pancake breakfast in McKenzie Towne.

Pancake breakfast in McKenzie Towne.

Quarry Park is an ambitious 400 acre urban infilling project, given is was an old quarry in the '90s and today it is well on its way to becoming a mixed-use community with four million square feet of office space, for 20,000 workers (including the head office of Imperial Oil), home to 6,000 residents, 140 acres of nature space and a retail/grocery district.

Quarry Park is an ambitious 400 acre urban infilling project, given is was an old quarry in the '90s and today it is well on its way to becoming a mixed-use community with four million square feet of office space, for 20,000 workers (including the head office of Imperial Oil), home to 6,000 residents, 140 acres of nature space and a retail/grocery district.

Aerial view of Brookfield Residential's SETON with the new South Health Campus constructed on land sold to the province by the developer as the employment anchor for a new downtown that will serve all of the surrounding communities. One of the interesting partnerships is the YMCA's operation of the Wellness Centre as part of the Health Campus. It is the first YMCA to be integrated into a hospital setting. (photo credit: Peak Aerials)

Aerial view of Brookfield Residential's SETON with the new South Health Campus constructed on land sold to the province by the developer as the employment anchor for a new downtown that will serve all of the surrounding communities. One of the interesting partnerships is the YMCA's operation of the Wellness Centre as part of the Health Campus. It is the first YMCA to be integrated into a hospital setting. (photo credit: Peak Aerials)

City Building: A Two-Way Street

Greenberg talks about the important role the city and the private sector play in city building, focusing on Vancouver as the model city with the development of Yale town, False Creek and Coal Harbour.  It would have been nice to have included examples from other Canadian cities – like Garrison Woods in Calgary or the above mentioned new developments East Village, Quarry Park, Bridges and Currie Barracks that were conceived in '00s.

Garrison Woods streetscape (photo credit: www.mardaloopherald.com)

Beltline's yimbyism

Greenberg talks about his work in Paris with its arrondissements and New York with its boroughs. He talks of the important role of community boards to reconcile the needs of the whole city, while acknowledging the importance and individuality of the different parts of the city.  He notes that New York’s 59 community boards play a key role in shaping how that city has evolved and suggests it might be helpful to establish community boards in Toronto where there is a significant urban suburban divide.

I would suggest any urban planner interested in the “good, bad and ugly” of how community boards and community engagement is shaping a city today, should look no further than at how Calgary’s 150+ community associations are increasingly shaping our city.

Calgary’s Beltline community in particular is especially deserving of praise internationally for its uniqueness in welcoming density and mega mixed-use developments. Its community association has been known to demand developers build to the maximum density allowed. I think their motto is “leave no density behind” as they have turned “Nimbyism into Yimbyism (yes in my backyard)!”

Infill Development Gone Wild

Greenberg talks about the importance of selective infill development in the suburbs and need to increase density horizontally, as much as vertically.  Of all the 20 or so cities I have visited over the past 10+ years, Calgary is the leader when it comes to inner-city infill residential development.  

Nowhere have I seen the diversity and magnitude of old single family homes being replaced by larger single-family homes, duplexes, four-plexes or several homes being bought up and replaced by new within established neighbourhoods. I can literally say that they is a construction site on every other block in Calgary's inner city communities near downtown. 

A parade of new infill home in Calgary's trendy West Hillhurst just 3 km from downtown. 

University City is a multi-phase development that will convert a retail power center with a sea of parking into an urban village next to an LRT Station (middle of image far right side) across from the University of Calgary (other side of Crowchild Trail). 

University City is a multi-phase development that will convert a retail power center with a sea of parking into an urban village next to an LRT Station (middle of image far right side) across from the University of Calgary (other side of Crowchild Trail). 

New condo development at the Lions Park LRT Station with direct link to North Hill Shopping Centre, Safeway and public library. 

Suburban / Urban Divide

Greenberg remarks often about how Toronto and other cities’ struggles with forced amalgamation that often results in dysfunctional regional councils.  Or the flight of businesses and people to edge cities in the middle and late 20th century, leaving the old central city to crumble and die (e.g. Detroit or Hartford).  The suburban urban dichotomy is something that every city in North America is facing today as the continent becomes more and more urban.

I think it would interest Greenberg’s readers to know that Calgary has a unique uni-city model as a result of annexing smaller communities and land on its edges before they could become large independent competing cities.  As a result, the city’s tax base has not been fragmented and there is little regional competition for economic development amongst the various edge cities.  The city benefits from having a single Police, Fire and Emergency services, single transit and roads system and integrated water and sewer system.  While the city has a large environmental footprint, it also has one of the most contiguous growth patterns of any city in North America.

While Calgary’s uni-city model is certainly not perfect (I am convinced there is a no perfect model for city-building or city-governance), it is unique and should be studied internationally for both its pros and cons.

This image shows how contiguous Calgary's growth has been as a uni-city.  You can see the large spaces taken up by parks like Nose Hill, Bowness, Fishcreek and the rivers, as well  as the airport in the northeast.

Last Word

Perhaps by now you can sense my frustration that Calgary gets no respect from the international planning community for its leadership in city building over the past 25+ years.

Sorry Mr. Greenberg if I took too much of my frustration out on you and your book. Indeed, your book provides lots of interesting ideas to explore in my future columns and blogs. For example, I love the concept of  “social spaces vs. public spaces.”  I invite you to spend more time in Calgary, as many of the things you suggest cities need to be doing to enhanced urban living in the 21st century is already happening in Calgary.

We might not be the best at anything, but we are better than most at almost everything. 

If you like this blog you might like:

The importance of a good mayor.

Intelligent Infilling

MAC attack 

Community Engagement Gone Wild

 

Irish Golf: The Good, The Bad, The Bold, The Beer, The Beauty

Irish Golf

When my Redwood Meadows golf buddies told me that one of their curling buddies had hooked up with Suneel Seetal of Seetal Golf Tours in Dublin who was organizing a 12-day, nine-round golf trip to Ireland, I immediately said I was “in”. Seven years since my Scotland golf trip and my bruises having disappeared, I was ready for another crack at those irksome links courses.  

My biggest decision was whether to take my own clubs or not. That’s because I decided to extend my Irish golf trip and make it a six-week European adventure. I didn’t want to haul golf clubs that whole time.

Luckily, one of my golf buddies, (“sly grey fox”) told me about ClubsToHire. Sure enough, I could rent clubs and a bag for the entire tour. The clubs would be waiting for me at the airport when I arrived and I could drop them off at the airport when I was done. How easy is that? And, the cost was reasonable - 40 to 60 Euros per week depending on the clubs you choose amongst their selection of top name brands. Just pack your balls and shoes and you are ready to play.  Bonus - I saved the extra luggage costs on the plane and the hassle of hauling a large oversized golf travel bag on trains, planes and automobiles.

I chose the RBZ TaylorMade set with graphite-shafted irons, thinking that it might be time to switch from steel to graphite.  I loved the irons; they seemed much more forgiving, longer and my back and shoulders hurt less than they did all summer, even thought I was walking more difficult terrain than my home course (sometime it seemed more like mountain climbing), carrying my clubs on my back rather than the push cart I used all summer.  Definitely ClubsToHire was a great decision.

My ClubsToHire are ready for the tour.

Now, On with the Tour…

Here is my summary of the good, the bad, the bold and the beauty of the courses in the order we played them, along with some pub fun.

Enniscrone Golf Club

Founded in 1918 as a nine-hole course, Enniscrone, located on the west coast of Ireland in the County of Sligo next to Kilala Bay at the mouth of the River Moy, became a dramatic championship course in 1974.   The 7,300 yard, par 73 course plays hard (especially if you are from Calgary and are use to playing at an altitude of 3,438 ft) with lots of long carries over the shaggy towering windswept seaside dunes and blind shots.  The last four holes along the Atlantic Ocean are challenging and stunning.  Holes 12, 13 or 14 all vie as Enniscrone’s signature holes.

The one negative - there is no driving range, very problematic for me as I really wanted a chance to test my rentals on the range before playing.

Enniscrone has been called the Ballybunion of the west coast.  The course is well maintained and the greens are as challenging as you will find anywhere, but they do putt true.  This course should be on your “must golf” list if you are going to the West Coast.

We knew this was going to get bad when we saw the grass between the first green and second tee box.

It is a long carry to the fairway, but the vista was beautiful.

The dog legs and elevated greens make for some blind and bold shot making. 

it is a bad idea to miss the green.

Carne Golf Links

If you are into off-the-beaten path golf courses, Carne Golf Links is the place for you (from some of the tee boxes, you would think you could see Newfoundland).  This wild and natural course with the largest sand dunes I have ever seen (the size of small office towers) is the swan song of the late Eddie Hackett and in his opinion “there will be no better links course in the country.”  The course looks like Hackett decided there was no need to do much design, so he just carved out the fairways and created 18 greens as the lunar landscape has barely been altered. It is hard to believe this course only opened in 1993.

The golf course wasn’t in the best of shape when we played in early fall and we also found signage to the next tee box poor, especially where there was some construction. But it did produce my most memorable shot - I sliced my drive (no surprise there) onto the side of a monster sand dune and thought I’d never find my ball, but lucky me, there it was sitting up on some tramped down grass (obviously I wasn’t the first person to hit a ball here) and so I had a shot. I had to choke down to the bottom of my grip as the ball was going to be about waist high. I hit what I thought was a perfect shot over the dune to the fairway and maybe even the green. No such luck; we never found the ball – ah, the joys and sorrows of golfing Ireland.

You have to be really into golf to come to Carne as there is nothing else there - no shops, no restaurants, no museums, just you and the course.  This 6,690-yard course is merciless with its elevation changes, wind, doglegs around the dunes, elevated greens and tees and of course those undulating greens (a three-putt being the norm).

There is also a new 9-hole course called Kilmore that opened in 2013 and has been called the best 9-hole course in Ireland, perhaps Britain. If you are into unique golf course adventures, add this course to your list, but if I had to pass up one course on our tour, this would probably be it.

This doesn't look too tough.

This is the hole where my bad drive ended up on the side of the hill on the right, and my bold shot over the hill to the green ended up lost. A good golfer would have hit it back on the fairway and then to the green.

The rugged landscape at Carne makes for a unique golf experience.

Lahinch Golf Club (Old Course)

Lahinch Golf Club founded in 1892, was originally with 10 holes on each side of the road.  In 1894, old Tom Morris was commissioned to create an 18-hole championship course, which was then redesigned in 1927 by Alister MacKenzie (who co-designed Augusta National Golf Club). Today, there are two 18-hole courses, the Old Course between the road and the sea and the flatter Castle Course, named after the nearby ruins.  Lahinch has been called the “St. Andrews of Ireland.”

Most people play the Old Course, which is like the Old Course at St. Andrew’s on steroids.  The giant sandhills and the rolling terrain make Lahinch a much bigger challenge than anything I experienced in Scotland, where the links courses are generally flatter.

If you are looking for authenticity, this is it!  There is even a herd of goats on the course and if they are sheltering near the clubhouse, it is a sure sign you are in for a wet round. I was somewhat disappointed by the new clubhouse. I was expecting a historic clubhouse with lots of stories and maybe even a few ghosts of championships past. There is also no driving range, which I was beginning to realize is the norm not the exception in Ireland.  

Lahinch has what might be the quirkiest hole I’ve played. The 4th hole is a short par five named Klondyke. The target off the tee is a narrow fairway located in a valley between two very large sand dunes. Then it is a blind second shot over the Klondyke (a giant sand dune) in the middle of the fairway about 200 yards away from the green. The ultimate blind shot!

What is also great about Lahinch is that the town is right there so you can mingle with the locals at the pub after your round of golf.  We stayed at the Vaughn Inn, which was very handy as you could walk to town or to the golf course. 

It is a beautiful day for golf in Ireland.

This is a par 3.  Yikes. 

Someone missed the green, that would be me.

My bold sand shot was close enough to the pin that I was able to one put and make my par. Beauty eh!

TIME FOR A BEER. We had a great time touring around the town of Galway and The Oslo pub home of the famous Galway Bay Brewery.  The Goodby Blue Monday oatmeal IPA was a tasty treat.  However we did not find a Galway girl, but not for the lack of trying as the song Galway Girl was the theme song for our tour.  

TIME FOR A BEER. We had a great time touring around the town of Galway and The Oslo pub home of the famous Galway Bay Brewery.  The Goodby Blue Monday oatmeal IPA was a tasty treat.  However we did not find a Galway girl, but not for the lack of trying as the song Galway Girl was the theme song for our tour.  

Doonbeg Golf Club

Doonbeg Golf Club a new links course designed by Greg Norman, opened in 2002.  In February 2014, the lodge and golf course was bought by Donald Trump. As one might expect it’s very much a luxury North American resort rather than a quaint small town Irish golf course.  This course was probably the least favourite of most players on our tour. The good news is there is a driving range so no excuse for a poor start.

The course is also unique in that it has five par 3s and five par 5s and will be remembered for the numerous 100+ foot high sand dunes. The signature 14th hole at 111 yards is the shortest hole I have played in decades. It is also perhaps the most difficult with the Atlantic Ocean just beyond the green; a deep valley in front so there is no room for error.  Depending on which way the wind is blowing and what tees you are playing, it can be anything from a fairway wood to a lob wedge. I missed the green, but was on the fringe.

The first hole is picturesque. 

This is one bad looking bunker daring you to try and carry it.

The ugliest bunker I have ever seen.

The ugliest bunker I have ever seen.

Who puts a bunker in the middle of a green? Bad idea!

It doesn't get more beautiful than this. You get some great views of the golf course while looking for your ball in the rough. 

Adare Manor Golf Resort

Adare Manor Golf Resort (AMGR) was our first parkland course and a welcome relief for most players on our tour – the links courses had beaten us up enough.  AMGR, established in 1900, is one of Ireland’s first and finest parkland courses.  Rich in history, set amongst the Franciscan Abbey (1300AD) and Adare Castle (1341 AD). It is also where I discovered Rebel Red, Irish red ale brewed by the Franciscan Well Brewery.  I’d give it a score of 95. Sorry, I digress.

We are thinking eagles today!

AMGR, as it was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., has a distinct North American look with tree-lined fairways and creative use of three lakes and the Maique River that meanders through the back nine.  It is rumored Jones thought the 18th hole could be the best par 5 in the world after he designed it.  It certainly was a challenge for our group as we were playing for day money and the final shot is over water to a large green.  You’d think that would be easy but even if you did choose the right club, you could easily be 100+ feet away from the hole and still be on the green.  This then meant you could easily three putt and not only lose the day money for best round, but also the putting competition.  One of our group made a 60 footer to save par.

I think everyone on the tour would rank AMGR as one of the top three courses we played.  Even if you don’t play well, it is like a walk in a park, a welcome relief from the wind, sand and ball searching on the seaside links courses.

Now that's big, bold and beautiful!

The bold golfer takes it over the sand trap and fades it onto the fairway so he can go for the green in two. Not me, I chickened out to the left and made par.

This is the 18th.  Doesn't look so hard, but it is.

Memories of Adare: An existential walk in the park! 

TIME FOR A BEER!  Our bus driver recommended Pat's place and it was a great spot.

It was here that I discovered my love of Rebel Red by the local Franciscan Well brewery.  

Yes it was a religious experience. 

IMG_5886.jpg

Island Golf Club

Just 15 minutes from the Dublin airport, The Island Golf Club could be your introduction to links golf in Ireland.  Founded in 1890, it is an “au natural” course with shaggy sand dunes everywhere. Sometimes you feel like you are playing alone in amphitheater, as you can’t see out. The course is also unique in that there are many small water ponds that include life preservers – luckily we didn’t have to use them.

Unluckily, this was the only course where we got rained out.  Most us got as far as the 13th hole, the 220 yard par 3 signature hole with its bail-out area short and left of the green (or you can be a hero and take on the beach and hope you have chosen the right club and hit it flush).  Unfortunately at this point, we were soaked to the skin despite our rain suits and waterproof shoes.

 I think we all agreed that we’d like to go back and take on this course again

Love the tradition at The Island.

A typical hole with elevated tee boxes, fairways guarded by sand dunes and larger undulating crowned greens where the ball rolls off the green into a collection area also called a bunker. 

Boys I don't think this is going to let up, probably a good idea if we headed to the club house NOW!

Boys I don't think this is going to let up, probably a good idea if we headed to the club house NOW!

Definitely needed a beer after being rained out.  Five Lamps Blackpitts Porter was as smooth as a Guinness, but with more bite and flavour. 

Definitely needed a beer after being rained out.  Five Lamps Blackpitts Porter was as smooth as a Guinness, but with more bite and flavour. 

Druids Glen Golf Club

Druids Glen is known as the Augusta of Ireland for good reason - it has the same tranquility, natural beauty and dramatic holes as Augusta National. I would love to go back and play it in the spring when the trees and flowers are in bloom. Certainly my favourite course, it would be a pleasure to play this course every day.  I think I had my camera out as much as my golf clubs, with its 18 signature holes.

Though the course looks like it has been there for ages, this Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock-designed course only opened in 1995.  I think I will let the photos speak for themselves.

The pretty first par 3 is just a hint of things to come.

The pretty first par 3 is just a hint of things to come.

How beautiful is this?

It looks even better looking back.

It looks even better looking back.

It just keeps getting better.

It just keeps getting better.

The bold shot is over the bush and fade it onto the fairway and not into the creek.  I was bold and successful.

The picture says it all.

As you can see I took more photo shots than golf shots.

Portmarnock Golf Club

Portmarnock situated on a two-mile long sandy peninsula covering 500 acres, makes it one of the most spectacular golf courses I have ever played. The land once belonged to the famous distiller John Jamieson (I recommend you bring a flask of his Irish whiskey with you when you play) and beginning in 1850, it was his private golf course. With the closing holes being both beautiful and brutal, for me there was a bit of a love-hate relationship. 

In the words of Bernard Darwin (grandson of Charles Darwin and World Golf Hall of Fame, British golf writer in the early 20th century), “I know of no greater finish in the world than that of the last five holes at Portmarnock.” Amen!

Portmarnock is well known for its lightening fast and true greens, many of being saucer-shaped or crowned greens, known for rejecting all but the best shots. I believe one of our group five-putted one green. It is definitely at the top of my “must play” list of golf courses in the Dublin area.

Portmarnock from the air.

The course feels very much like the link courses in Scotland - flatter with lots of pot bunkers.

There were several of these small lily-filled ponds. 

A slicer's nightmare.

These bunkers are just daring you to try and carry them.

County Louth (Baltray) Golf Club

When we drove up I really thought this was going to be a cow pasture but when we got our balls and saw the driving range, I wondered what the hell are we doing here. I have better buckets of balls in my garage than the dirty old balls we got from the dispensing machine and the driving range was more mud than grass - the first time I have every wished a driving range had mats.

However, what County Louth lacks in amenities it makes up for as a traditional, no gimmicks links golf course. Subtle rather than spectacular, I am OK with that. Established in 1892, the course has been tweaked several times, keeping it challenging for the low handicappers and fair to the high ones. Make sure you choose the right tee box. 

County Louth is best known for its par 3s, perhaps the best in Ireland. They are not long but they are challenging, depending on the wind.  From the green tees (6,338 yards), the par 3s are 143, 148, 131, 169 yards respectfully. However, you will have to use everything from a sand wedge to a fairway wood on any given day. To me, it is the par 3s that separate the great golf courses from the good ones.

The practice green is flat as a pancake, nothing like the greens, what's with that?  

You know its going to be a bad day when they have markers in the rough to help you locate approximately where your ball might be!

You know its going to be a bad day when they have markers in the rough to help you locate approximately where your ball might be!

Yep middle of the fairway off the tee, now the big decision do you hit short and try and roll up on the green or take your chances and hit is on the green. Just hit it!  Still loving my Clubs for Hire.

Yep middle of the fairway off the tee, now the big decision do you hit short and try and roll up on the green or take your chances and hit is on the green. Just hit it!  Still loving my Clubs for Hire.

Accommodations

Suneel with Dunbar tours strategically organized the tour so that we only stayed in three different hotels, making for a bit more driving each day to the golf course, but less packing and unpacking.  It also meant we had great accommodation and got to experience the buzz of Dublin with the small town charm of Westport, Lahinch and Galway.  

Stephen’s Green Hotel is perfectly situated across from the famous St. Stephen’s Green Park and just minutes away from Trinity College, Temple Bar and all of Dublin’s historic attractions.  It also included a hearty breakfast every morning.

Castlecourt Hotel in Westport, was a charming hotel with an animated bar where we all learned about the Irish sport of hurling (a combination of rugby, lacrosse and field hockey). If you think Canadians are passionate about their ice hockey, you should experience the Irish watching a hurling match at a pub.

Vaughan Lodge Hotel in Lahinch offered very comfortable rooms and we even had a special dinner prepared for us one night and the breakfasts were superb. We also made good use of the cozy bar for our nightly story time.

The Corner Stone was the official bar of our tour while in Lahinch.

The Corner Stone was the official bar of our tour while in Lahinch.

Guinness Time! It was music to our ears when we heard the fresh kegs of Guinness being delivered. 

Guinness Time! It was music to our ears when we heard the fresh kegs of Guinness being delivered. 

Last Word

If I had to golf seaside links golf courses everyday (I like to golf about 75 to 100 times a year from mid-April to mid-October, Calgary’s golf season), I would quit golfing.  Golfing in Ireland is totally different than golfing in Scotland or North America - the courses are more challenging due to more and larger sand dunes, more wind and the front of the greens are not designed to allow you to roll onto them.

I always thought link-style courses allowed you to roll the ball up onto the green, but in Ireland the front of the greens often have bunkers creating a very narrow opening to roll your ball onto the green.  The greens are also designed so that any ball with enough speed to roll onto the green usually has too much speed to stay on the green. 

Though it was great to be exposed to so many courses and some of the Irish country side, I think it would have been best to play fewer courses so you could play the same course two or three times to get a good feel for the nuances of the holes and the greens.  There are enough good courses in and around Dublin you could literally just use the city as our home base.  Contact Suneel and he will set you and your buddies up with a custom tour. 

By Richard White, January 17, 2015

Calgary: The importance of a good mayor

Recently, I read Ken Greenberg’s book Walking Home where is shares his lessons learned as a “city builder” in various cities around the world.  One of his comments that sticks in my mind is “mayors are the chief designers of their cities.”  That got me reflecting on how Calgary’s mayors have influenced the design of our city over the past 35 years, when just four very different mayors governed our city. 

Calgary’s Mayor Terms

  • 1980 to 1989                        Ralph Klein          
  • 1989 to 2001                        Al Duerr
  • 2001 to 2010                        Dave Bronconnier    
  • 2010 to 2017?                      Naheed Nenshi

 

Klein: The Communicator

Unlike the USA, any Mayor in Canada has limited power to drive his/her agenda - unless their power of persuasion can convince the majority of their Council members to buy into their vision or agenda. 

Klein

That being said, Calgary has benefitted from having strong mayors for 35+ years, each capitalizing and adapting to the economic cycles of our boom and bust economy.  Calgary entered the 1980 in a building boom that rivalled that of today, however the Federal government’s National Energy Program (NEP) quickly put Calgary into a recession that lasted into the mid ‘90s.

Post-NEP, Ralph Klein adopted a Roosevelt-style of government, negotiating with the Province to help fund major city projects like Northeast LRT, Municipal Building and Performing Arts Centre.

He was instrumental in the negotiating with the Province to ensure Calgary’s Saddledome got built for the Calgary Flames and 1988 Winter Olympics. Klein, and then Premier Peter Lougheed enjoyed a synergistic relationship that was instrumental in getting not only the Saddledome built but also the Northwest LRT constructed in time for the Olympics.

Therein lies an important lesson - it is critical for Calgary’s mayor to have a good working relationship with the Premier and his cabinet. Master of persuasion and relationship building - with citizens, other governments and the President of the International Olympic Committee - Klein was pivotal in making Calgary and international city, much like Nenshi is today.

The Saddledome at Stampede Park on the southeast edge of downtown.

The Municipal Building, old City Hall and Olympic Plaza.

Construction of the Performing Arts Center with its concert hall and four theatre spaces with a total of 3,200 seats, made it one of North America's largest centres in 1985. 

Duerr: The Planner

The early ‘90s was a period of little growth in Calgary. We were still in a recession and our infrastructure was in pretty good shape, so much so that there were no tax increases for five years.

Duerr

As a planner, Mayor Al Duerr realized this was a good time to review outdated planning documents like the Transportation Plan, so he initiated a community engagement process that resulted in the Go Plan being approved in 1996. The process was critical in that it forced Calgarians to look into the future and determine what kind of city they wanted to build.  One key issues at the time was mobility and to lengthening commuter times – sound familiar.

A key idea of the Go Plan was the creation of mini downtowns in the suburbs, allowing some of those who lived in the ‘burbs to live work and play close to home. Today, were are doing just that with, for example Brookfield Residential’s SETON and Livingston’s town centres, as well as urban villages at Westbrook, University Station and Bridgeland LRT Stations.  

The city and development community have also created significant new communities in the SE and NE quadrants close to the city’s large manufacturing, warehouse and distribution employment centres, making it possible to live work and play without crossing the Deerfoot Divide.

Another major decision of the Go Plan was no new Bow River crossing.  Calgarians were already starting to think about the environment, our rivers and sustainable growth. Before the Go Plan, the City plans called a river crossing at Shaganappi Trail (in Montgomery) and another one in Bowness.  Unfortunately, without these crossings and the City’s significant residential only growth on the westside, we now have the Crowfoot Trail crisis.

Under the guidance of Duerr Calgary became a more “caring city.”  He was instrumental in the development of the Calgary Homeless Foundation in 1998, which was unique in North America at the time and a far cry from the Klein’s famous “creeps and bums” fiasco.

By the end of Duerr’s reign, a new Transportation Plan was in place, setting the stage for Bronconnier, the builder and project manager, to take over the reigns.

The Bridges is a master planned community on the site of the old General Hospital on the northeast edge of the City Centre, based on transit oriented development principles.

The Bridges is a master planned community on the site of the old General Hospital on the northeast edge of the City Centre, based on transit oriented development principles.

Brookfield Residential's SETON (which stands for southeast town), is a new live, work, play community with its own downtown being created at the southeastern edge of the city 20 years after the approval of the GO Plan. It will eventually be linked to the rest of the city by the SE LRT. (photo credit: Brookfield Residential and RK Visuals)

Bronconnier: The Builder

Bronconnier

Dave Bronconnier had an agenda and was always ready to share it.  From day one, he said we needed to improve Calgary’s infrastructure and he delivered.  Bronco (his nickname for good reason as he rode the horse no matter how hard it tried to buck him off) knew how to count to 8 (not seconds) Alderman as that what he need for a majority vote at Council.  By 2004, he had successfully negotiated with the Province to get a share of the gasoline tax paid in Calgary for infrastructure projects. With the funding in hand, he was the catalyst for the extension of all three legs of the LRT out to the new suburban communities and the funding and design of the West LRT on time and on budget.

Bronco, recognizing the need to balance the city’s investment in both transit and roads, included several major road projects including the gigantic GE5 (Glenmore, Elbow Drive and 5th Street underpass), as well as numerous over passes at key intersections around the city as part of his agenda.

He was also instrumental in realizing the mega East Village makeover after over 20 years of false starts by negotiating with the Province an innovated new funding model based on the USA’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) model.  And he was able to convince his colleagues on Council to form the controversial Calgary Municipal Land Corporation to develop and implement a master plan for East Village utilizing both the city and private sector lands. East Village has the potential to become Calgary’s postcard to the world of urban planning and living.

I am told Bronco was able to negotiate an amazing $15B from the Federal and Provincial governments for Calgary infrastructure projects during his term. He was instrumental in working with other Big City mayors to get municipal funding from the Federal Fuel Tax and Federal GST refund. The latter provided seed money for Calgary's new Science Centre and Library as well as major upgrades to Heritage Park and the Zoo.  He was also instrumental in setting up the ENMAX Park Fund. Bravo Bronco!

The northeast LRT extension included the new Martindale Saddletowne station. (photo credit: GEarchitecture)

Aerial view of the GE5 interchange (photo credit: PCL)

Aerial view of the GE5 interchange (photo credit: PCL)

Nenshi: The Ambassador 

Nenshi

Perhaps it is too early to tell how current Mayor Nenshi will shape our city, but already he has exercised his persuasive powers to get the controversial Airport Tunnel approved (only time will tell if this was the right decision). 

Nenshi, a tireless champion of the need to create a more urban Calgary, has encouraged more growth not only at the edges of the city, but in older existing communities.  To date, several major inner-city urban village projects have been approved Stampede Shopping Centre, West Campus and West District. 

To date, he has been less successful when it comes to the approval of secondary suites and cutting the red tape around the approval of infill projects in established neighbourhoods to allow for more density and diversity, it is not for lack of trying.

He has been a strong advocate for making transit a priority and trying to get funding for both the North and SE LRT legs.  While the funding for LRT is still a long way away, a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit that will run along the same route as future LRT tracks) program is in the works as the first phase in the development of these two “game changing” transit routes.

Nenshi has also been an outstanding ambassador, building the City's reputation internationally as a young, hip, progressive city. At home, his negotiating skills will be tested by the City's growing urban/ suburban divide, the long list of "wants and needs" vs revenues and the growing NIMBYism in established communities. 

Airport Tunnel construction. 

Airport Tunnel construction. 

Transit routes

Last Word

Greenberg identifies “civic pride” as a key ingredient to successful city building. I doubt Calgary’s civic pride has ever been higher than it was after the Olympics in 1988. Unless of course it was after the 2013 flood, when Calgary demonstrated its amazing community spirit, under the leadership of Mayor Nenshi.  While no mayor is perfect, Calgary has been very fortunate to have effective mayors who for the past 35 years have helped Calgary evolve into one of the most liveable cities in the world. 

By Richard White, January 16, 2015

If you like this blog, you might like:

Calgary's Pioneer Spirit lives on

Understanding Calgary's DNA

Are we too downtowncentric

Parks: Calgary vs Dublin, Florence & Rome

It’s true - you have to travel to appreciate what you have back home.  After six weeks in Europe, specifically Dublin, Florence and Rome, I have a much better appreciation for Calgary’s parks, especially those in and around our downtown. 

While Dublin had several nice parks including St. Stephens Green and St. Patrick’s Cathedral Park, it had nothing to match the quality and quantity of Calgary’s urban parks.  The public parks in Florence and Rome, are in a word, “disgusting” with their uncut grass, weeds, muddy pathways, tired playgrounds and dog crap.

The river pathway in downtown Florence. 

The river pathway in downtown Florence. 

A weed infested playground in Rome.  This was the norm for public playgrounds in both Rome and Florence. 

A weed infested playground in Rome.  This was the norm for public playgrounds in both Rome and Florence. 

Not only does Calgary have great parks, but also on the verge of getting even better. Recently, the City of Calgary announced $75 million in park funding from the ENMAX Legacy Parks program for 18 parks, including mega makeovers of Century Gardens in downtown’s west end, the Beltline’s Thomson Family Park (the former Calgary Lawn Bowling site on 16th Avenue at 11th Street) and Hillhurst/Sunnyside’s Bow to Bluff Park.

In addition, to the park improvements being completed using ENMAX funds several other urban parks have been recently completed or in the process of being completed.

The site of the new ENMAX Park at Stampede.

The site of the new ENMAX Park at Stampede.

Rendering of what ENMAX Park will look like.

Century Gardens today looking from the top of the fountain on the northeast corner of 8th Street and 8th Avenue SW.

Century Gardens today looking from the top of the fountain on the northeast corner of 8th Street and 8th Avenue SW.

The iron gate to Calgary's historic Calgary Lawn Bowling field. 

The iron gate to Calgary's historic Calgary Lawn Bowling field. 

Plans for renovations of Century Gardens Park (image credit: City of Calgary)

Plans for renovations of Century Gardens Park (image credit: City of Calgary)

Information panel informing residents of plans for new park space with a mix of uses. 

Information panel informing residents of plans for new park space with a mix of uses. 

Information panel.

Information panel.

Concept plans developed by Ground3 Landscape Architects for the old Calgary Lawn Bowling site.  This is just one of several information panels on the fence allowing everyone to know what is being planned. It doesn't get more transparent than this. 

Concept plans developed by Ground3 Landscape Architects for the old Calgary Lawn Bowling site.  This is just one of several information panels on the fence allowing everyone to know what is being planned. It doesn't get more transparent than this. 

New Urban Parks

This past May, the City completed the new Barb Scott Park on the west side of the Calgary Board of Education headquarters on 12th Avenue at 9th Street.  It has added much needed green space to Calgary’s most densely populated community and is home to the popular “Chinook Arch” public artwork.

The City is also in the midst of creating a new park in a somewhat strange location - Macleod Trail and 11th Avenue SE.  Enoch Park will incorporate the historic Victoria Park Queen Anne house built by clothing entrepreneur Enoch Sales in 1905. The new park will hopefully become a meeting space for the many new condo dwellers surrounding the park.

Aerial view of Enoch Park looking west. 

Aerial view of Enoch Park looking west. 

Signature Urban Parks

Prince’s Island is currently Calgary’s signature urban park, but soon it is going to have to vie with St. Patrick’s Island for that stature.  St. Patrick’s Island is getting a seasonal beach, an outdoor amphitheater, tobogganing hill, firepit and picnic areas as well as a wetland area. Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, after extensive public consultation, has delivered on almost everything on Calgary’s wish list for this park.  

And let’s not leave out Fort Calgary, which is in the middle of multi-million dollar upgrade and expansion. Shaw Millennium Park too has to one of the most unique urban parks in North America as a combination festival/skateboard park.

Kudos to CMCL for its community engagement and ability to incorporate almost everything on my wish list for St. Patrick's Island. 

Kudos to CMCL for its community engagement and ability to incorporate almost everything on my wish list for St. Patrick's Island. 

NoBow Parks

The north side of the Bow River also has its fair share of urban parks.  Riley Park is over 100 years old and is unique with its cricket pitch. Plans for the Bow to Bluff Park will see the public corridor along the Sunnyside LRT line from the Bow River to the McHugh Bluff transformed into a linear urban park.

Also in NoBow is the 6th/5th Avenue Parkway, from 10th Street to 26th Street, where there is a park/playground space every few blocks – Riley Park, Hillhurst/Sunnyside Community Centre Park and Community Gardens, Queen Elizabeth School Park, West Hillhurst Park/Bowview Pool, Grand Trunk Park and Helicopter Park. 

Bow to Bluff Park along the Kensington/Sunnyside LRT line. (image credit: City of Calgary)

Bow to Bluff Park along the Kensington/Sunnyside LRT line. (image credit: City of Calgary)

Detail of one of the nodes of the Bow to Bluff Park (image credit: City of Calgary)

Detail of one of the nodes of the Bow to Bluff Park (image credit: City of Calgary)

Playground Parks

It is crazy how many cool urban playground parks there are in the greater downtown.  I expect there are over 30 vibrant relatively new playgrounds in the schools and parks from Mission to Crescent Heights and from Inglewood to Parkdale.  

Did you know that there are over 1200 playgrounds in Calgary - that averages out to about 6 per community.  Since 2010, the Parks Foundation of Calgary through the Playgrounds and Communities Grant Program, has funded over 100 new playgrounds valued at $15 million.

Last Word

These are only some of Calgary’s awesome array of urban parks.  I haven’t even mentioned lesser-known parks like Humpy Hollow Park, the tiny Paget Park, Chinatown’s Sien Lok Park, the Nat Christie (sculpture) Park along the Bow River. Indeed, when it comes to parks and playgrounds, Calgary doesn’t take a back seat to any city in Canada or around the world.

Our beautiful parks are a big reason Calgary is the 5th Most Livable City (Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2014 Global Livability Index) in the world and Canada’s Best Place to Raise Kids (Money Sense Magazine, April 2014).

When it comes to making Calgary a better place to live, work and play (downtown or in the suburbs), the investment of $75 million into new and improved parks across the city will pay dividends for decades to come.  I think it is wise for a city to build on its strengths.

By Richard White, January 11, 2015

If you like this blog, you might like:

Dublin: St. Stephen's Green vs Cathedral Park

Beautifying the Beltline

Calgary: Dog park capital of North America

Rome: A Surprise Playground Lunch

 

East Village Condo: No Parking, No Problem

Imagine a world without cars. Imagine Calgary without cars. Many futurist say it will eventually happen. One of the first steps will be to experiment with condo towers in strategic urban locations with no parking for residents. 

Joe Starkman, CEO of Calgary’s Knightsbridge Homes is prepared to be a pioneer with his proposed 15-storey condo project, N3 in East Village that would have 167 units and no parking.  While some Councilors and planners are questioning the parking relaxation (current regulations would require 101 parking stalls, 84 for residents and 17 for visitors) that would be required to approve N3. I say “no residents’ parking, no problem.”  

I originally thought the developer should provide the required visitor parking, however with a bit of digging I found out there are 1658 existing public parking stalls within 300 metres of N3, and Calgary Parking Authority has plans to build a new 630 stall parkade. I also found out that to add even one level of parking would add  $70K per unit, as the high water table would require expensive "raft construction."  

After reviewing Bunt & Associates' "N3 East Village Zero Parking Feasibility Study," I say "no visitors' parking, no problem."  The study clearly stated that after a comprehensive review of best practices and experiences with no or limited parking in cities across North America, N3 could be successful without any parking given the excellent access by transit, cycling and walking to key amenities, as well as easy access to 1,000s of public parking spots when needed. 

I would also like to note that the City should not approve any reserved street parking for residents of this or any condos in East Village. In fact, all street parking should be public parking, either metered or a 2 to 4 hour limit depending on the time of day and day of the week. 

Computer rendering of N3 next to the St. Louis Hotel on 8th Avenue and 4th Street SE.

Who would live in a condo with no parking?

All of the N3 units are small - 460 to 620 square feet - meaning the primary market for these homes is singles, be that young, middle-aged or seniors.  More specifically, the market is for urbanites who don’t want or need to have a car.  A $200,000 home in downtown Calgary would be very attractive to the young geologists, accountants, bankers, brokers and engineers (GABEsters) who populate the office towers just blocks away. 

I also think N3 would be attractive to empty nesters who are travelling a lot and newly widowed seniors.  My mother moved to downtown Hamilton and gave up her car after my Dad passed away (not that she needed to but because she wanted to) so she could walk to the library, market and church.  She has never been happier.

Back story, a recent CBC report from Hamilton indicated that city has a potential crisis in the making with seniors who are trapped in the suburbs without a car. My Mom was smart to get out while she can. Learn more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/why-a-revitalized-downtown-is-what-hipsters-want-and-seniors-need-1.2843931

I think corporate Calgary would purchase a few units for out-of-town consultants and board members when in town on business.  Maybe even some local executives who live in the ‘burbs or on acreages might purchase a unit to have a place to stay after a long day at the office, an early morning meeting, Flames game, concert, theatre or bad weather. 

I am also betting there are individuals in Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge who might want to have a “pied-a-terre” allowing them to be part of downtown Calgary’s growing culture – National Music Centre, High Performance Rodeo, Folk Festival, Stampede etc.

N3 street view with retail at grade to animate the sidewalk. 

East Village is perfect!

Calgary Parking Authority has plans for a new parkade on 9th Avenue across from the Salvation Army just a few blocks away where residents and visitors will be able to find parking when needed.  The fact people will have to park and walk a few blocks is great as it will animate the sidewalks and add more eyes to the street adding to improved public safety. 

East Village is the perfect place for Calgary to experiment with a "no parking" condo as all of the City’s amenities are within walking distance – walking and cycling pathways, parks, museums, art galleries, library, theatres and LRT. There will be lots of cafes, pubs, lounges, restaurants, patios and even a grocery store only a block or two away. It will be a shoppers’ paradise as you can easily walk to Inglewood, The Bay, The Core, Kensington, Design District and 17th Avenue or catch the train to Chinook.

Building a condo with no parking works in East Village, and would also work in some places in Beltline, Hillhurst Sunnyside and perhaps in few other locations where the proximity to public parking, transit and amenities allow for a "no car" livestyle. 

RK Visualization rendering of East Village pedestrian street at night with dinning and shopping activities. (photo credit: Calgary Municipal Land Corporation)

No Car / No Problem

With Car2go there is less and less of a reason to own a car if you live in Calgary’s greater downtown neighbourhoods.  Why own a car that sits idle 95% of the time and costs $10,000 a year to own and operate when you can use Car2go for a few dollars for most of your trips? 

There are also taxis and car rentals for other trips on an as-need basis.  There are advantages to taking a taxis to certain places (e.g. hospitals) as you save on the parking costs or to renting a car as you can rent what you need when you want (e.g. four wheel drive for that skiing trip to the mountains or a SUV for the golf trip to Montana).

Buyer Beware

Sure, the market for small condos with no parking stall is limited, but in a city with over 450,000 homes, I am sure there are 167 individuals who would love to save $70K (cost of an individual underground parking stall if developer required to supply all of the required parking) on the purchase of their home and probably another $5,000 a year in transportation costs.

I would hope that anyone buying in N3 would realize that the future resale of their home would be to a narrow market, even though there is plenty of research documenting the “no car” market is growing in North America. I expect Calgary's "no car" lifestyle market will grow significantly as our city becomes more urbanized.

RK Visualization of new Central Library and LRT in East Village (photo credit: Calgary Municipal Land Corporation)

Laptop Generation

Knightsbridge Homes is no newbie when it comes to pioneering innovative new condo designs and developments. It is same team that created the vision for University City at the Brentwood LRT station that is currently transforming a sea of surface parking spaces into a transit-oriented condo village.  I expect they have learned a lot from that project and are applying it to N3. 

I chatted with Starkman about that project awhile back and he share with me his thoughts about the next generation of condo dwellers, a group he called the  “laptop” generation.  His observation is that many young adults are not interested in condos with big kitchens as most don't cook and most often dine on “take-out or take-away” while playing video games, shopping online, watching TV shows or movies on their laptops. on their laps.  As Bob Dylan sang, “For the times they are a-changin’.”

The times are "a-changin" also when it comes to Americans' love affair with cars. Since the turn of the century young Americans have been driving less, don't believe me read this report:  http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/transportation-and-new-generation

Last Word

Like all good developers and entrepreneurs, Starkman is always looking for emerging markets and trying to stay ahead of the curve.  What I also like about the N3 proposal is that it will diversify the demographics of East Village. And in my opinion, diversity is more important than density in creating urban vitality.

I hope the City won’t require the developer to do more research or commission another study thus resulting in paralysis by analysis. Sometimes you just have to trust your intuition.

PS

Wonder where the name N3 comes from? It official stands for New Attitude, New Vision, New Lifestyle - clever eh! But I am thinking it stands for No parking, No cars, No problem. 

 

By Richard White, January 9, 2014

 

If you like this blog, you might like:

Cowtown: The GABEster capital of North America

Urban living is in its infancy in Calgary 

2014: Calgary condo culture comes of age!

Calgary: New Office Towers = New Condo Towers

Suburbs are moving to the City Centre in Calgary 

 

National Music Center accepts authenticity challenge

Andrew Mosker, President and CEO of the Calgary's National Music Center responded to a the Everyday Tourist blog about the great music museums of memphis and their authenticity. Specifically, he responded to the following paragraph:  

"In chatting with Andrew Mosker, CEO, National Music Centre (NMC), who is currently construction a new museum in Calgary, I was told they would be incorporating some of the lessons learned from STAX on how to engage, entertain and educate the public about music.  Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if the NMC could match STAX museum’s authenticity as most of NMC’s artifacts will be imported from elsewhere. Also a big shiny new museum located in a glitzy new master planned urban community seems diametrically opposed to places that are the catalyst for artistic creativity. Time will tell."

Mosker writes:

Authenticity is a challenge for all organizations like ours, but I’m confident we will deliver authenticity in culture, space and public programming when the new National Music Centre opens in 2016. 

STAX — along with many other famed music venues and museums — helped to inspire NMC. I find it inspiring that STAX uses its history, influence and the social demographics of the neighbourhood to support education, cultural tourism and economic growth in the area.

A 1560 AD Virginal from the National Music Centre's collection. Virginals are from the harpsichord family and were popular in Europe  the late Renaissance early Baroque period. (photo credit: National Music Centre) 

There’s no question that it is difficult to compare the authenticity of Memphis and the broader social realities of the American south, and their respective impact on the development on American popular music to a Calgary or even Canadian experience.

I would argue however, that when I first socialized the idea of creating a National Music Centre on the site of the King Eddy hotel in East Village, which was before Calgarians believed that executing a master plan was even possible, the response was that it was not a safe place to go. The combination of low-cost housing, homelessness, and criminal activity meant that Calgarians were very skeptical of the idea that the East Village could evolve in a meaningful way.  

My view was that given the King Eddy’s music history and authenticity, that this was the perfect site for NMC given our vision be a catalyst through music and to celebrate the contributions that music has made and continues to make in Canada by offering a wide range of public, artist and education programs. The King Eddy is an artifact that we want to preserve and share, and hopefully the programming inside of it will deliver an authentic experience to audiences.

Yes, the East Village expansive development may reduce some of the original grit and authenticity of the area, but I believe that this can be mitigated by the quality of NMC’s public programming, investment in community building and more awareness and development of our regional music industry.

Thank you for the excellent blog posts and for the chance to offer my two cents.

You can read the entire Everyday Tourist blog at: Music Museums of Memphis / International Blues Challenge

Rendering of National Music Centre's bold design at night. (photo credit: Allied Works Architecture)

Rendering of the dramatic design of the National Music Centre during the day. (photo credit: Allied Works Architecture)

National Music Centre has one of the largest keyboard instrument collections in the world; this is Elton's John piano. (photo credit: National Music Centre).

 A sample of the diversity of keyboard instruments in the National Music Centre's collection. (photo credit: National Music Centre)

East Village Transformation

East Village's King Eddy Hotel would not have been out of place in Memphis or Clarksdale. Iconic bluesman played at the Eddy for decades until its closure in 2004.  The building's bricks and footprint will be incorporated into the new National Music Centre. 

East Village one of Calgary's oldest communities, is just 14 blocks, many of which were just surface parking lots, before the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) developed a master plan in 2007.  Since then the City of Calgary via CMLC has invested $160M to upgrade the roads, sidewalk, sewers, as well as create new public spaces like Riverwalk, St. Patricks Island pedestrian bridge and island redevelopment.  All levels of government, as well as the public and private sector have contributed to the development of a new iconic Central Library and the National Music Centre both under construction. 

 

The private sector has or is in the process of investing over $5B in new residential, office, retail and hotel that will create a vibrant urban village for Calgarians of all ages and backgrounds.  To appreciate the scope of the East Village transformation from a community dominated by three homeless shelters and several affordable seniors apartments into a mixed-use 21st century urban village click here to view Calgary's RKVisualization video: http://www.evexperience.com/3d-animations/2014-3d-animation

Before the mega makeover of East Village began, the neighbourhood was very seedy with homeless, drug addicts and prostitutes. 

Even the once proud King Eddy Hotel was no longer the Home of the Blues by the 21st century. 

Andrew Mosker

Andrew Mosker is the President and CEO of the National Music Centre (NMC) in Calgary. He has a B.A. in History from Concordia, a Diploma in Contemporary Jazz Performance (piano) from Grant MacEwan College and a Masters of Musicology from the University of Calgary. A native Montrealer, Andrew came to Alberta as an aspiring musician and now as the President and CEO of NMC, he is creating a home for music in Canada through the National Music Centre building project in Calgary’s East Village. Learn more at www.nmc.ca.

If you like this blog, you might like:

Canadian Human Rights Museum: Money Well Spent?

Phoenix: Musical Instruments Museum

Glenbow: A new kind of art museum

Calgary: Military Museums

 

 

La-Z-boy Tourist: Colour in the Canadian Rockies

You don’t always have to leave home to be a “tourist.” Recently, I curled up with a book I bought on a whim in a used bookstore in Salt Lake City (they have some of the best used and rare bookstores). Entitled “Colour in the Canadian Rockies” this 1947 book was authored by Fredrick Niven with full colour illustrations by Walter J. Phillips. 

Regular readers know I am mostly an urban guy, but once in awhile I like to get beyond the glitz, grit and grid of the street and experience the pastoral pathways of nature. 

I had never before heard of Niven, but I did know Phillips and just looking at the 32 full-page, full-colour reproductions of his watercolours of the Canadian Rockies is like taking a trip to the mountains without leaving your La-Z-Boy (the book also has 33 of Phillips’ fine pen and ink drawings).  I later learned that he was commissioned to do the watercolours to illustrate Niven’s prose as opposed to just a selection of his works.

Mount Rundle

I am also not usually drawn to wordy, flowery, poetic prose but for some reason Niven’s descriptions of the sense of places as he travelled up, around and through the Canadian Rockies seemed authentic and appropriate for the magic and majesty that is the Rockies.

I was immediately captured by “Sometimes they are the colour of ripe plums and seem immense. Sometimes they are just a low wavering inky smudge along the horizon…Sometimes they are smoky-hued mountains of illusion, clouds, and peaks blending in the eye….they give a sense of eternal permanence that makes the sound of bells ringing down the quarters of hours over Calgary, and the honking of motor cars in the streets, and the cough of trolley cars’ warning seem vague, unreal.”

On the opposite page was Phillips’ painting of Mount Rundle, which at first glance is a straightforward tranquil painterly realism representation, but upon further portrays the clouds in the sky and the reflections in the water as wonderful colourist abstractions.  

Cloud abstraction 

I immediately thought of Georgia O'Keeffe when I saw the Phillip's Lake Louise: Dawn - symmetry, sensuality,  abstraction, expression and rich colour.  

For several hours over a few days I was quickly transcended back in time and place to when the Canadian Rockies were first being discovered by Europeans on foot, by horse and by canoe.  Niven tells his personal tales of exploring the hills, rivers, and peaks, as well as the people of the mountains in a philosopher’s prose. Phillips would paint the sense of space, place and silence.

There were even a few history lessons, like was makes a good guide, "A good guide is one who breaks his dude (client) in slow, if he sees he's not in form, without letting him know it, and brings him in to camp just reasonably and healthily tired and with an appetite on him. 

Below Lake Oesa 

Sample Prose

“the names of the creeks and peaks had for me the quality of ballad music.”

“the still reflection of the spire-like trees that stood, as in tranced stillness…an effect of eternal imperturbability on the mountains…lonely projections into radiant space…two pyramidal, very majestic slashed with moonlight and shadow.”

“memory also I have of how the sense of immediacy fell away and yielded to a sense of timelessness.”

“a sense of loneliness inevitably enfolds us in these great solitudes”

“In the tree-tops down Sheol Valley, beyond the awesome slide, little winds sigh and pass and leave profound silence. The tom-tomming of creeks only accentuates the silence.”

“A forest of pillared quiet.”

“They rode on. Immediately we were again alone. Such is the effect of these places when others are encountered and pass. Loneliness enfolds us. The meeting takes on a quality of unreality. Human beings seem transient. They were here; they are gone; they are ghosts; we are all but as ghosts travelling through that quiet.”

Seven Sisters Falls, Lake O'Hara

About Niven

Frederick John Niven (born March 31, 1878, in Valparaíso,  Chile, died died January 30, 1944, Vancouver, B.C., Can.), regional novelist who wrote more than 30 novels, many of them historical romances set in Scotland and Canada. Three of his best-known novels - The Flying Years (1935), Mine Inheritance (1940), and The Transplanted (1944) - form a trilogy dealing with the settlement of the Canadian west.

Educated in Scotland, Niven worked in libraries in Glasgow and Edinburgh before immigrating to Canada about 1900 and working in construction camps in the Canadian west. Returning to the British Isles, he was a writer and journalist in England until after World War I, when he settled permanently in British Columbia. He also published verse and an autobiography, Coloured Spectacles (1938).

Hamilton Falls, full of wonderful colour, shapes, textures and subtle lines, makes further links to O'Keeffe, abstractionists and colourfield painters. 

About Phillips

Phillips was born in Barton-on-Humber in LincolnshireEngland. As a youth, he studied at the Birmingham School of Art. After studying abroad in South Africa and Paris he worked as a commercial artist in England. In June 1913, he moved to Winnipeg, where he lived for more than 28 years. Phillips died in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1963.

Phillips is famous for his woodcuts and watercolours. His artistic career spanned from the 1900s through the 1940s, during which time his work was exhibited throughout North America and Great Britain. Common subjects for Phillips included the lakes of Manitoba, the prairies and in his later years, the Rocky Mountains where his ashes were scattered.

In 1940 he was asked to be a resident artist at the Banff Centre, then known as the Banff School of Fine Arts, where he played an important role in the development of their visual arts program. The  Walter Phillips Gallery, in Banff, which focuses on contemporary, is named after him. The Glenbow Museum in Calgary holds an extensive collection of Phillips art and a research archive.

Lake Louse: Dawn, right-side-up

Last Word

To paraphrase Niven, “it is not only scenery that the forest and mountains offer, but their memories, experiences, restlessness, peacefulness, solitude and companionship.”  

If you like this blog, you might like:

A 24-hour quickie in Santa Fe

BVAS: Still Burning Exhibition

Free Trip to New York (Almost)

Flaneuring Bow Valley College

2015: Year of Calgary's mega infill projects!

I have often thought it would to be fun to be a “futurist.” So for fun I thought I would look ahead at what key condo developments might happen in 2015.

Probably the biggest announcement I predict for 2015 will be the Calgary Flames Partnership plans for a new SHED (Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District). It could be the redevelopment of the lands around the Greyhound Bus Station, or McMahon Stadium lands including the baseball stadium and playing fields, or they could surprise everyone and announce a site on the edge of the city. Wherever the site, I predict it will be a creative and comprehensive plan with condos, hotels, offices, and retail - maybe even a convention centre and new stadium.

With the development of the West LRT, the under utilized land west of 14th Street had been identified as a site for redevelopment, however the cost to reconfigure the road and other infrastructure work make this site very costly to redevelop. (Image credit: Ross Aitken)

Remington Development's Railtown site was once thought to be site for a arena. It is next to the future SE LRT station and could include a mix of office and condo towers. (image credit Ross Aitken)

All of the playing fields surrounding McMahon Stadium have been discussed as a potential redevelopment site for several years now. Could this site accommodate a new stadium and arena? (image credit: Ross Aitken)

Will 2015 be the year that Harvard Developments will announce they are beginning phase one of the mega makeover of the Eau Claire Market.  Back in November, 2013, Harvard announce ambitious plans for the site that would include 800,000 sf of office, 800,000 sf of residential (600+ condos), 600,000 sf or retail and 200,000 sf of hotel space in four ultra contemporary towers and a futuristic podium. This project has the potential to be a game changer in making south shore of Calgary's Bow River one of the premier luxury urban communities in North America.  

Artists rendering of new Eau Claire Market in winter with skating on the lagoon at Prince's Island.

Rail Trail Rejuvenation

Three concept towers for the West End along 9th Avenue SW.

Currently, 9th Avenue in Downtown’s West End is flying under the radar, but both the Metro Ford and Stampede Pontiac sites have proposals floating around for mega developments that may well come to fruition in 2015. WAM Development Group has plans for the Metro Ford site (9th Avenue and 10th Street SW), rumoured to include four towers containing 1,800 luxury condos and 150,000 square feet of retail.  This would make it the largest condo project in Calgary’s history, but construction won't begin for at least another 5 years, until Metro Ford's lease expires. 

Across the street on the NE corner of 9th Ave and 10th St SW, West Village Towers is a 3-tower (575 units), 90,000 square feet retail proposal by Wexford Developments Corporation and Cidex Developments.

Further east on 10th, Lamb Development will start construction on its “6th and Tenth.”  A long shot for 2015 would be if Remington Development announced updated plans for its mega Railtown project straddling the tracks from 9th Avenue to 10th Avenue east of the new 4th Street SE underpass.

West Village condos proposed for Stampede Pontiac block. 

Approved condo on the south east corner of 6th street and Tenth Avenue SW.

West LRT Catalyst

In 2014, Calgary developer Matco Investments acquired 10 acres of City land adjacent to Westbrook Station. This Transit Oriented Development site is part of the larger Westbrook Village area plan that envisions an innovative, vibrant pedestrian and cycling-oriented urban community.  I am told design for the first phase of the Westbrook Station village is well underway for the land along 17th Avenue and 33rd Street SW, just east of the underground station. It will include residential, retail, restaurant and a public plaza.  A development permit for phase one will be submitted in the first part of the new year, which means construction, will start in 2015.

Aerial view looking northwest of the Westbrook Station site with the existing shopping centre and the new condo towers in the bottom right corner. (www.peakaerials.com)

Images are from City of Calgary's Westbrook Village brochure.

Images are from City of Calgary's Westbrook Village brochure.

Jacques Site Redevelopment Ideas

Look for an announcement on the redevelopment of the 5.3-acre Jacques site immediately northeast of the 29th Street SW LRT Station – some of the former seniors’ cottage homes have already been removed.  Silvera for Seniors has been working with the City, urban designers and the community to create a unique, seniors-focused village with a variety of multi-residential housing types, a small-scale retail office development, a park/plaza public space and a pedestrian mall. 

Images are from Silvera for Seniors website.

This image is from the City of Calgary's Shaganappi Plan, illustrating how the Jacques site redevelopment fits into the larger plan.

This image is from the City of Calgary's Shaganappi Plan, illustrating how the Jacques site redevelopment fits into the larger plan.

These are three conceptual alternatives on how the site might be developed. They are for discussion purposes only.

These are three conceptual alternatives on how the site might be developed. They are for discussion purposes only.

jacques site 2
jacques site 3

Inglewood R & R

Capitalizing on Inglewood being proclaimed Canada’s greatest neighbourhood by the Canadian Instituted of Planners in 2014, several developers will be moving forward on new projects in 2015.

The Inglewood Brewery site, quietly waiting for redevelopment for decades, will finally see some construction in 2015. Over the past several years, owner Matco Developments has been doing its due diligence with the City, Province and community regarding balancing historical preservation opportunities and economic realities of redevelopment of this historic industrial site.

Conceptual rendering of how some Inglewood Brewery buildings could be redeveloped. (image credit: Matco/M2i Development)

With the second phase of Matco/M2i Development’s SoBow condo project at the eastern edge of Inglewood completed, their attention in 2015 will turn to the creation of a live, work, play Brewery District in multiple phases.  Revitalization will begin in 2015 with the renovation of the Bottling Plant to accommodate commercial uses, which will set the stage for future residential development.

Further west along 9th Avenue two new condos are planned at 13th St SE. On the northeast corner Torode Reality will complete its four-storey project with retail at street level and 54 condo units above. On the southwest corner, I have a sneaking suspicion a similar scale project will be announced in the new year.

Further west on 9th Ave Jeremy Strugess’ architectural team has designed the uber- contemporary and controversial Avili condo across the street from the funky Atlantic Avenue Arts Block that I believe will start construction in 2015. All of these projects call for retail space at street level and residential units above (R&R) just like the old brick buildings built 100 years ago when Atlantic Avenue (9th Street) was Calgary’s first Main street. 

Six-Storey Condos?

In 2015, as many suburbanites will be moving into condos as single-family homes. Today’s family-oriented suburban communities – not like those of their parents - have a mix of condos, town and single-family homes. No longer do single-family homes dominate new suburbs.  

A good example of the type of new condos being built in the ‘burbs is Auburn Walk in Brookfield Residential’s master-planned community of Auburn Bay. This two building, four-storey, modern designed condo is a short walk to shopping, lake and bus rapid transit. Units range in size from 544 to 1,018 square feet - similar to new high-rise condos in the Beltline meaning many suburban Calgarians live in the same footprint as those downtown.

My crystal ball tells me the big new 2015 condo announcement in the ‘burbs will be the construction of Calgary’s first six-storey, wood-frame condo building. The City recently changed its policy to allow for this type of structure as a means of creating more density and affordable condos. Ideally, the City would like to see six-storey condos in established communities, but that might take a couple of years, as everything is more complex in the inner city.

Six storey wood framed condos are becoming more and more common in North America; this allows more density and more affordability as wood construction is half the price of concrete.  In the past, the building code dictated a four-storey maximum for wood framed buildings.  

Last Word

It doesn’t take a futurist to know that 2015 will be a big year for East Village (EV) as the first wave of new residents since 2003 will move into two new condo towers - FUSE and FIRST.  It is estimated 750 more people will call EV home in 2015, with 500 to 1,000 new residents moving into EV each year for the next several years. And, some people thought is would never happen!

If oil prices stay below $80 for all of 2015 it will be a challenging year for developers and homebuyers. I am confident that what is currently under construction will be completed, but projects could be delayed.  However, after a record year of condo starts in 2014, it might be time to take a bit of a breather. 

East Village is a mega construction site today - a magnificent multi-generational village soon!

If you like this blog, you might like:

Calgary's Rail Trail Stroll

Inglewood: Calgary's most unique community?

Eau Claire Market Mega-Makeover!

Calgary's Learning City is blooming!

An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald's New Condos section titled "Future Projects Reshape Calgary" on January 3, 2015

Art / Fun / Airports

Jeff deBoer, When aviation was young, artworks in the WestJet boarding lounge.

I love flying WestJet for many reasons, not the least of which being able to see Calgary artist Jeff deBoer’s two giant art works, “When aviation was young” in the WestJet boarding lounge.  I love watching kids and their parents using the giant key to wind up these retro ‘50s tin toys on steroids, which then starts the giant toy planes twirling around and around.  This usually results in smiles on the faces of both the kids and adults, and even some dancing around the art.

For years I thought the pieces were just fun and decorative, creating a bit of a midway-like distraction for families with their bright colours and cartoon-like graphics. It was only recently when I took a closer look, that I discovered they are full of fun factoids. 

I love it when art is fun and informative at the same time. 

Calgary’s Aviation History

Did you know that Clennel “Punch” Dickins, back in 1928, piloted the first prairie airmail circuit from Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Winnipeg in a Fokker Super Universal aircraft?

Or that in 1956 the City of Calgary named its new airport McCall Field after Fred McCall a World War I flying ace and barnstormer who pioneered a mountain air route linking Calgary, Banff, Fernie and Golden?

Bet you didn’t know Tom Blakely and Frank H. Ellis, were Calgary’s early aeroplane builders. In 1913, they purchased the remains of a Curtiss-Type biplane, rebuilt it, named it Westwind and used a field west of Calgary as their take off and landing strip. That field is now Shouldice Park.

And what about the story of how two deHavilland Twin Otters, flown by Kenn Borek Air of Calgary made history in 2001 by being the first aircraft to land at the South Pole in the middle of winter? 

So, next time you are waiting for your in the Calgary International Airport, walk around and explore, you never know what you will learn – there is lots of art to discover!

 

What children see when they look up at "when aviation was young." 

One of the story boards  on the side of the artwork.

Anchorage Airport Art Gallery

A few years back, we jumped at the chance to do a house exchange with friends who lived in Anchorage.  One of the more memorable experiences of that trip was the fabulous art at its airport.  We are not talking about a mural here and a piece of sculpture there. Someone had clearly realized airports make great art gallery spaces.  Kudos to them!

The Anchorage Airport art collection is extensive - murals, light shows, stained glass works, folk art, historic First Nations art, contemporary art, fabric pieces, masks and paintings.   Many of the smaller pieces are organized in display cases like you would see in a museum or art gallery.

In fact, when we were returning home, I made sure we got to the airport really early to give us as lots of time to explore the art. When was the last time you really wanted to get to the airport early? 

Hallway with art display cases and light show artwork on the ceiling makes for a dramatic entrance.

Stained glass artworks are both contemporary and traditional with their references to aboriginal design elements. 

One of many contemporary masks made out of everyday objects that link traditional mask-making with today's consumer culture. It was interesting to compare these with other displays of traditional masks.

One of many contemporary masks made out of everyday objects that link traditional mask-making with today's consumer culture. It was interesting to compare these with other displays of traditional masks.

Brenda checking for more information on the Art at the Airport program. 

Last Word

I understand Jeff deBoer is working on two new pieces for the Calgary International Airport.  I hope they are as playful and pensive as these two.  It will be a tough act to follow.

The Calgary International Airport is already full of art and artifacts and I expect there will be even more with the opening of the new International Terminal.  It would be great if the airport had an app, map and/or online site that would allow visitors to know the locations of the art, who the artists are and some background information on each piece.  It could make for a fun treasure hunt for families and art lovers and provide a welcome diversion when facing a long wait.

Come on Calgary, if Anchorage can do so can we!

If you like this blog, you might like:

Saks: Art Gallery or Department Store?

Edmonton: Borden (art) Park

Do we really need all of this public art?

Putting the public back into public art

 

 

 

Museums of Memphis / International Blues Challenge

Preface

It is hard to believe that even in 2015, whites in Memphis and the entire Delta area haven’t embraced the blacks for their wonderful spirit and joie de vivre.  Someone told me (I wish I could remember who) many years ago “we must embrace the differences that define us, not let them divide us.”  After attending the IBC, checking out the museums of Memphis, wandering Clarksdale and attending the First Baptist Church service, I say “vive la difference!”

International Blues Challenge

Mike Clark (far right) with some of his new best friends jamming at IBC 2014.

Mike Clark (far right) with some of his new best friends jamming at IBC 2014.

In December 2013, a few of Mikey’s Juke Joint groupies (including myself) decided to head to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge (IBC) to support the Mike Clark Band and Tim Williams, both of who would be representing southern Alberta at the January 2014 competition.  It was a truly amazing experience, not only did Williams win the competition as the best single/solo act and best guitarist, but I developed a whole new appreciation for the history of the blues and the culture of the south that produced it.

This year’s Challenge happens January 20 – 24 with Calgary’s Mike Clark Band and Tim Williams again representing southern Alberta.

The Museums

One of the great things about visiting Memphis is their trio of music museums – Stax Museum, Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and Sun Records.

The STAX Museum blew both Brenda (not so much a blues or music keener) and I away with its campus that includes not only the museum, but a charter school and extensive collection.  For anyone interested in the history of 20th century music in North America, this is the place to go. You will learn about the evolution and connections between numerous genres of music – blues, soul, jazz, Bebop, country, gospel, hillbilly, R&B, rock and Pop music.  What I particularly loved about the museum is there is its air of authenticity as much of the history actually happened in Memphis or in the immediate area.  

STAX museum is located in an older neighbourhood, with a mix of both new and somewhat seedy buildings.

STAX museum is located in an older neighbourhood, with a mix of both new and somewhat seedy buildings.

The museum starts with a wonderful 20-minute film, after which you wander at your own pace through hundreds of displays that tell the story of the music with lots of memorabilia.  The highlight was when I complemented an elderly, distinguished-looking man on his great tie.  He thanked me and we got chatting about the museum and how he was visiting with his grandchildren who “wanted to see where their grandfather was” in the museum.  Turns out I was talking to Harold “Scotty” Scott of the Temprees, whose gold record for “Dedicated to the one I love” and other band artifacts we on exhibit.

One take away message I got from this museum was how the pain and hardship deeply penetrated the African American culture of the south and how they sought comfort and solace in their music.

I would recommend anyone visiting the museum, also take an explore a few around the museum, it will reinforced the link between poverty, sense of place and blues music.  The predominately black neighbourhood of empty lots, abandon homes, homes with what looked like religious shrines on the porches and numerous churches looked like many of the images we saw in the museum.

In chatting with Andrew Mosker, CEO, National Music Centre (NMC), who is currently construction a new museum in Calgary, I was told they would be incorporating some of the lessons learned from STAX on how to engage, entertain and educate the public about music.  Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if the NMC could match STAX museum’s authenticity as most of NMC’s artifacts will be imported from elsewhere. Also a big shiny new museum located in a glitzy new master planned urban community seems diametrically opposed to places that are the catalyst for artistic creativity. Time will tell.

One of the things that make Memphis' museums great is their authenticity, as they are telling stories that are both local and global. 

One of the things that make Memphis' museums great is their authenticity, as they are telling stories that are both local and global. 

Harold "Scotty" Scott. 

Harold "Scotty" Scott. 

The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, created by the Smithsonian Institute and located downtown next to the arena provides an excellent overview of the history of Memphis area music from the 1930s to the city’s musical heyday of the ‘70s.  The museum’s digital audio guide offers up over 300 minutes of information including 100 songs that you can listen to while surrounded by artifacts of the time.  It is a total music immersion program not to be missed.

Sun Records, located just outside of the downtown, is easily accessible via the tram and a short walk to the historic building. Like the STAX museum, I think you get a better appreciation for the history and the environment that produced the music when you walk the streets around it.

The lobby of Sun Studio looks like a '50s diner.

What is great and unique about Sun Records is that you get a personal tour led by a local musician.  Sun Records, an American independent record label was founded in Memphis in 1952, by Sam Phillips and financed by Jim Bulliet.  It was here that Phillips discovered and first recorded Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. Phillips loved the music of African-Americans and wanted to bring that genre to a mass audience, which changed the world of music, but meant Sun Records struggled to be viable. 

The museum is full of artifacts and your tour guide has amazing stories to tell.  But the highlight of the tour is to stand on in the recording studio where Elvis, Carl, Jerry Lee and Johnny belted out your favourite songs. The building just oozes history - I am sure I heard Roy singing.

The modest entrance to Sun Studio.

One of  the many artifacts from the early days of Sun Studio.

The recording studio is still used today. It looks like a rec room from the '50s. It is hard to imagine that this is place where the legends of '50s and '60s music created their hits here.

Beale Street

Beale Street, truly one of North America’s iconic streets, is home to the International Blues Competition (IBC). The event utilizes 17 different venues along the street for the 250+ entries from around the world.  The street is hopping with music from noon to the wee hours of the morning. 

For me, the highlight of the Challenge were the midnight jams at the Daisy Theatre (every night various musicians from the competition and past winners put on an impromptu concert, the energy was electrifying).   There are certain art experiences that stand out in my life - seeing Baryshnikov dance from the front row of the Lincoln Centre (1984) and the Hermitage Show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (1977) - and the IBC jams on Beale Street.

Beale Street is animated by buskers and bands who provide great street entertainment. 

Beale Street is animated by buskers and bands who provide great street entertainment. 

The International Blues Challenge midnight jam. 

The International Blues Challenge midnight jam. 

Clarksdale

No trip to Memphis for a blues lover is complete without a road trip to Clarksdale, Mississippi (90 minute drive), considered by some as “ground zero” for the blues. The entire city is a living museum complete with numerous historical plaques and a self-guided map. 

Clarksdale is home to the crossroads of highways 61 and 49 where legend has it iconic blues guitarist Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil.   You can also visit the McKinley Morganfield’s (aka Muddy Waters) cabin on Stovall Road. There are lots of tiny cabins still inhabited that serve as a reminder of the poverty that begat the blues.  

When in Clarksdale check out The Delta Blues Museum, WROX radio station on Main Street and all of the other historic sites around town, it will give you a whole new appreciation of how the blues was germinated.

Ground Zero Blues Club opened in 2001 in an old warehouse building with “manufactured authenticity” complements of an old couch and other bric-a-brac on the porch and the tradition of graffiti-like visitors writing of their names anywhere they can find space. names of people who have been there on the walls.  We arrived mid day (nothing was happening), but we did manage to get on stage and pretend we were performing.

In chatting with Holger Petersen (veteran CBC and CKUA blues broadcaster), after his talk about the history of the blues at NMC a few years back he told me Ground Zero was one of his favourite places to listen to the blues. You could easily spend an afternoon wandering the streets of Clarksdale, checking out the museum, eating dinner and listening to an act Ground Zero and maybe even book yourself a room at the Riverside Hotel, established in 1944, where the the likes of Robert Nighthawk, Sonny Boy Williams and Ike Turner had been guests.

It truly is a sacred place.

Ground Zero Blues Club looks like it was part of Clarksdale's heyday, but in reality it didn't open until 2001. It has established itself as the premier place for blues performers to play when in the area.

Ground Zero Blues Club looks like it was part of Clarksdale's heyday, but in reality it didn't open until 2001. It has established itself as the premier place for blues performers to play when in the area.

Panels like these are located throughout the city, creating an informative self-guided walking tour. 

WROX radio
Clarksdale has numerous music related stores that are fun to explore.  It is a great place to flaneur - you will find everything from the charming Greyhound bus depot to the Tennessee Williams historic district of mega-mansions from the early 20th century. Tennessee Williams grew up in Clarksdale.

Clarksdale has numerous music related stores that are fun to explore.  It is a great place to flaneur - you will find everything from the charming Greyhound bus depot to the Tennessee Williams historic district of mega-mansions from the early 20th century. Tennessee Williams grew up in Clarksdale.

Barry (another Mikey's groupie) and I on stage at Ground Zero Blues Club. 

Gospel Revelation

No trip to Memphis is complete without attending a Sunday morning Gospel Church service. While many trek to the well-publicized Al Green church service near Graceland, we were fortunate to notice during our wanderings that at the end of Beale Street is the First Baptist Church (built in 1880, it is believed to be the first brick-constructed, multi-story church built by African Americans).  We like authenticity so this seemed like the perfect choice.

So on Sunday morning, when many IBC revellers were still recovering from their Saturday night festivities, we headed to church.   Wanting to be respectful, we tried toquietly walk in and sit at the back, but that was not to be.  We were immediately welcomed like long lost family, hands were shaken, we were given a program, and by the end hugs were shared and we were part of “the family.”  I have never experienced a more friendly welcoming. 

At the beginning of the service, all-newcomers were welcomed by name and where they were visiting from.  We were asked to stand to be recognized and invited to say a few words. Then amateur singers and preachers started to perform building to a crescendo with a large female choir and professional passionate preacher that made both your body and soul shiver. I don’t think I have ever heard so many AMENs in my life. 

Initially planning to only stay for 30 minutes or so, we were mesmerized we stayed for the entire two-hour service.  We were even invited to join them for lunch afterwards.  It was a magical experience. Amen!

insidechurch

2014: Calgary's condo culture comes of age!

2014 could well be branded the year of the “luxury condo” in Calgary with Vancouver’s Concord Pacific’s announcement of their 218-unit Eau Claire project, The Concord, which includes a 6,200 square foot penthouse with a price tag of 13 million dollars.  The project design team included Arthur Erickson, arguably Canada’s most celebrated architect.

It is interesting to note that this announcement comes just one year after Calgary’s great flood of 2013. The banks of the Elbow and Bow River continued to attract major upscale condo developments in 2014.   Joining The Concord along the Bow River is Avenue in the West End by the Vancouver development team of Grosvenor/Cressey’s and their architect James Chen.  Vancouver’s Anthem Properties also announced the final phase of Calgary’s largest condo development -the 1,000-unit Waterfront on the old bus barn lands on the east side of Eau Claire.  

Yes, Vancouver developers and architects continue to transform the south shore of the Bow River into a tony, upscale highrise urban community.  The only thing missing in 2014 was the announcement that Harvard Properties was moving forward with their billion-dollar Eau Claire Market site redevelopment designed by
Vancouver’s IBI/Landplan group (that was announced late in 2013).

Calgary’s Park Avenue

One would have thought it might take a few years to see any new condo developments in the Mission area given the devastation of the flood. The uber-chic River condo with its record condo setting $8 million dollar penthouse made some quick changes to it is flood prevention design while construction continued. 

But, the big new announcement in 2014 was the 14-storey XII boutique condo (on the corner of 2nd St and 26th Ave SW).  It will have only 12 units i.e. 10 floors will be a single condo with four floors consisting of two 2-floor units.  Designed by the Calgary’s own Sturgess Architecture, this project is a quantum leap in luxury with its car parking elevator that will allow residents get out of their car in the parkade at street level, so the car can be parked robotically in the parkade. How amazing is that!  The architectural design is also futuristic with its transformer-like shape.  Residents will also get private consultation with the architects and interior designer (Douglas Cridland) and make a trip to Vancouver (yes, Vancouver) to meet with balthaup kitchen team there.

Luxury condo development along 26th Avenue in Mission started in the late '70s. 

XII condo on 26th Avenue will set a new benchmark for contemporary architecture in Calgary. 

The River condo on 26th Ave SW is Calgary's most expensive condo project to date.  

The River condo on 26th Ave SW is Calgary's most expensive condo project to date.  

Kensington is exploding

This past year has been a big one for Kensington village as new residents moved into Battisella’s Pixel and StreetSide Development Corporation’s St. John’s condo, both Calgary developers.  Vancouver’s Bucci Development started construction of Ven just east of the Hillhurst/Sunnyside LRT station and announced the Kensington, on 10th Street NW.  As well, Battistella also announced plans for Lido (as sister condo to Pixel), also on on 10th Street. 

After years no condo development, Calgary’s only NoBow urban community is finally participating in Calgary’s emerging condo culture. There are currently over 1,000 condos at various stages of development in Kensington Village.

Bucci hasn't even completed its Ven condo in Kensington and they have already begun construction of Kensington on 10th Street. 

Bucci hasn't even completed its Ven condo in Kensington and they have already begun construction of Kensington on 10th Street. 

Battistella just finished Pixel in the background and almost immediately started on Lido in the foreground. 

Bridgeland is bustling

After stalling for a few years because of the recession, condo construction resumed in earnest in Bridgeland this past year. The completion of the St. Patricks’ Island pedestrian bridge in the Fall of 2014 and the redevelopment of the island itself, scheduled to be completed in 2015, is making Bridgeland a very attractive place for, Calgary rapidly increasing yuppie community.

Thus it’s not surprising that Apex and GableCraft Homes have decided to proceed with Bridgeland Crossing II and Assured Developments with Giustini Development Corp are proceeding with STEPS, both are within easy walking distance to the LRT and the new St. Patrick’s Island. 

Bridgeland Crossing 2 is currently under construction on Memorial Drive across from the LRT station. 

The Steps is just one of many modest condo projects approved, under construction or recently completed in Bridgeland. 

Suburban/Urban

Condo building continued to be strong in the Beltline with the topping off of The Park (Lake Placid Group) and Mark on 10th (Qualex-Landmark) as well as the first tower of The Guardian (Calgary’s tallest condo at 44-storey by Hon Development). However, new condo development wasn’t restricted to the greater downtown communities like the Beltline in 2014.

In fact, citywide condo development in 2014 outpaced single-family housing starts by two-to-one with 8,915 multi-family housing starts vs. only 4,363 single-family as of the end of November.  Not only were almost 90% of new condo units are being not built in the greater downtown; this trend is expected to continue.

The City approved several new “suburban/urban” villages in 2014.  In September, City Council approved West Campus, a planned community east and south of the Alberta Children’s Hospital.  After several years of community consultation, it approved the West Campus Development Trust’s a master plan for the 184-acre site that will eventually accommodate 15,000 new residents (mostly in condos) and 10,000 workers when completed by about 2025.   

In December, Truman Development presented its master plan for its 96-acre West District community to the City.  When fully built out, in 10+ years it will be home to 7,000 residents and 5,200 workers.  Both West Campus and West District are planned as complete communities that will allow residents (families, yuppies, empty nesters and seniors) to not only live, work, play and age in their community.

West Campus' main street with condos above and in the background. (rendering by RK visuals, photo credit: West Campus Development Trust.)

Rendering of condo concept for West District (photo credit: Truman Development).

Rendering of condo concept for West District (photo credit: Truman Development).

Livingston is Brookfield Residential Properties' new urban community at the north edge of the city. It will have many of the features of SETON including a major town centre. 

Last Word

Recently, Brookfield Residential, one of North America’s largest homebuilders and headquartered in Calgary, branded its proposed new Livingston community at the northern edge of the City as “not your parents’ suburb.”  While still only in the conceptual stage, it promises to create a new town centre at the northern edge of the city, equivalent to their SETON urban village on the southeastern edge.

As of the end of November, metro Calgary multi-family starts was only 378 units shy of the City record of 10,602 units in 1978.  Indeed, Calgary’s developers are building condos at a record pace in the greater downtown communities, established neighbourhoods and in the new suburbs. 

But what is really exciting is that they are not just building condos, they are building communities that have a density and diversity of uses that hasn’t been seen for over a century. Calgary's new communities are not your parent's or even your grandparent's suburbs but your great-grandparents suburbs.

By Richard White, December 26, 2014 

NB: An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's New Condo section on December 27, 2014

Concept rendering by RK Visuals of the SETON a planned new urban community at the city's southeast edge. (photo credit: Brookfield Residential Properties).

Auburn Walk condo in Calgary's new community of Auburn Bay developed by Brookfield Residential Properties. 

Auburn Walk condo in Calgary's new community of Auburn Bay developed by Brookfield Residential Properties. 

Calgary's Bee Kingdom red hot studio tour

By Richard White, December 21, 2014 

This weekend I got a chance to tour the studio of Calgary's Bee Kingdom Glass as it was their annual Christmas sale and open house.  You could get a great deal on original art by Calgary's hottest young visual artists -  everything from fun glass balls ($30) that would add some colour to any room over the winter, to fun, funky Scotch decanter and two glasses for $199.  There was something for everyone.

Everything is handmade in-house (sorry in-garage) and just to prove it the boys are giving very entertaining demos in the garage, which is actually their studio.   As a bonus, not only were they selling their work, but they are also giving demonstration on the magic they perform to make the art.  Trust me it is well worth the visit.

Personally, I love the little colourful, playful, cartoon, cherub-like figures that hang on the wall. Mine for only $450! Surprise your loved one(s) with an original work of art this Christmas. 

Coming off their successful Glenbow exhibition this past summer, the Bee Kingdom (Ryan Fairweather, Phillip Bandura and Tim Belliveau) are the young guns of Calgary’s visual arts community. 

Look out Dale Chihuly (the world’s leading glass artist) these guys are gunning for you.

For more information: www.beekingdomglass.com/

This is the living room picture window. How festive is this? 

You would never know that this mid-century house has been home for the Bee Kingdom for several years without the sign saying "Let's just call it beesiness?"

You would never know that this mid-century house has been home for the Bee Kingdom for several years without the sign saying "Let's just call it beesiness?"

The back deck has a table of seconds for sale. You can't have the multi-coloured one in the fore-ground - we bought it. All under $100.

Scotch decanter sets are one of their biggest sellers. For you traditionalists, not all of them have antlers.

Some hidden gems on a shelf in the garage. 

I love these little guys...

Bee Kingdom studio demo. They make it look so simple.  Don't you just love the shoes? 

A view from the back alley of shoppers milling about in the studio after the glass blowing demo.

Chihuly's lovely yellow glass sculptures amongst the plants in the Dessert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix. 

Winnipeg's Old World Charm

By Richard White, December 16, 2014

One of the things we loved when travelling recently in Italy, was the abundance of artisans and small craftsmen with studios on the street - everything from furniture upholstery to musical instrument repair.  It was a constant reminder of the past when people fixed things rather than just throwing them away; a time when things were handmade vs. mass-produced. 

Certainly, one of the cultural differences between Europe and North America is our relationship with objects.  You are hard pressed to wander the streets of Europe without being reminded of the sense of craftsmanship, be it the construction of buildings or the creation of handmade fashion items. That’s not the case in most North American cities.

On a recent trip to Winnipeg, I was delighted to discover a little of that city’s old world charm.

We met this happy couple in Florence. They had a leather shop at the end of the block where we were staying. I saw a belt in the window I liked, but they didn't speak English, nor did I speak Italian.  Luckily there was a lady in the shop who did speak some English and I got my belt. 

We met this happy couple in Florence. They had a leather shop at the end of the block where we were staying. I saw a belt in the window I liked, but they didn't speak English, nor did I speak Italian.  Luckily there was a lady in the shop who did speak some English and I got my belt. 

We passed by the shop several more times during our visit and we always stopped in to say Hi. They were always busy, but still they had big smile for us.  

We passed by the shop several more times during our visit and we always stopped in to say Hi. They were always busy, but still they had big smile for us.  

Wilder Goods

One day, I decided to check out Winnipeg’s West Broadway district, my old stomping grounds back in the mid’70s. After wandering for a bit (loved Zed books, Stella’s Café & Bakery and the Salvation Army Thrift store), it was time for coffee and perhaps some work on my laptop.  I was intrigued by Thom Bargen Coffee & Tea shop, which just happens to feature Calgary’s own Phil & Sebastian coffee.  However, not finding any free Wi-Fi, there I was ready to leave when I fortunately noticed what looked like another shop at the back.

Wandering up the stairs, I discovered a showroom of handmade leather bags, belts and leather accessories.  Behind it, was a backroom with two young guys in aprons surrounded by sewing machines and other gadgets. My curiosity was aroused. Soon Brendon Friesen and Nate Bezoplenko were chatting with me about their thriving business called Wilder Goods.

Utilizing a small backspace (it might be 500 square feet), that the Thom Bargen café wasn’t using, these two, self-taught craftsmen created a workshop which supports both of them working full time. They advertise on Instagram and sell via their showroom – old world meets new world!

The day I was there they were making denim aprons on spec from an end bolt of a 40- year old fabric sourced from one of Winnipeg’s historic fabric warehouses. They were both confident they could sell all the aprons they would make (I subsequently learned they made a limited run of 10 aprons and sold all of them in days to local chefs, a mosaic artist and Christmas presents for spouses).

When asked what was the weirdest thing they had ever made, they quickly said “a denim canopy for a 30ft by 16ft geodesic dome for a mobile performance venue for the Riel Gentlemen’s choir

Brendon and Nate’s creativity and enthusiasm was very refreshing, arguing well for the idea that old mid century urban spaces do indeed have a future, especially if they are not renovated into upscale franchised café and shops. It also supports the idea that more affordable cities are a haven for the young creative class.

Find out more about Wilder Goods at wilderwpg.com

 

Wilder Goods workshop with one of the denim aprons. 

The showroom.

The showroom.

The boys and their best friend.

Eric Shoe Repair

Brenda first discovered Eric in a non-descript ‘60s strip mall on St. Mary’s Road in Winnipeg’s St. Vital community, back in September when she needed her brother’s shoes fixed. Backstory: her brother has hard-to-fit feet so when you find a pair of shoes that fit him, you buy them.  In this case, they were actually new, “steal of a deal” leather shoes that fit but had a flaw, so she brought them to him with the hope they could repaired.

She learned of Eric Shoe Repair from the shoe salesperson at the nearby Hudson’s Bay department store at the St. Vital Mall where she had bought the shoes. After showing the problem to him Eric said “No problem. When do you want them?” And just a day later they were “just like new” for a mere $5.

Then, on our December trip to Winnipeg, we spent a whole afternoon footwear shopping with her brother; this time for new winter boots. We eventually found some that fit.

But given the old boots were in good condition, except for the tongues, Brenda decided to see if Eric could fix them so he’d have a “spare pair.” Both mesh-type tongues were being pretty much torn to shreds. Eric again said “no problem” explained that he would replace them with matching brown leather tongues, even showed her the leather he would use and what the cost would be and then asked, “When do you need them?” It was late Thursday and we were on a tight schedule, but he was even willing to come in on Sunday if need be to have them ready for first thing Monday morning, before we had to head back to Calgary.

This visit he also showed us that he makes moccasin-type boots and was quick to show off the ones he was wearing and another pair he had just completed.  On the back of his business card it says special prices for bikers and even includes a photo of leather chaps – Eric is full of surprises!

Who knew that in a little space of no more than 300 square feet in a North American suburb someone could create a thriving business using century old skills.

Eric's crowded workshop.

Eric showing off his new boots.

Eric showing off his new boots.

A sample of custom boots Eric made for a customer. 

A sample of custom boots Eric made for a customer. 

Last Word

Everyone knows that Winnipeg is home to one of North America’s best early 20th century historic districts – The Exchange.  However, there are examples of old world charm across the city (and most cities if you look for them) and when you find one, there is something fun and refreshing about buying directly from an artisan. 

Cities need to find ways to preserve and foster street level workshops and studios, as well as independent shops and cafes, for those like Brendon, Nate and Eric are part of the diversity that creates urban vitality.  

If they can do it in the old world, certainly we can do it in the new world. 

 

Getting my custom belt fitted in Rome's Monti district. This store was actually a warehouse where belt-makers come to get their supplies - everything from dyes to buckles. The green boxes in the background are full of different buckles. 

Getting my custom belt fitted in Rome's Monti district. This store was actually a warehouse where belt-makers come to get their supplies - everything from dyes to buckles. The green boxes in the background are full of different buckles. 

Calgary: 24 new main streets coming soon?

By Richard White, December 13, 2014

Though it doesn’t make any “best seller” lists, nor even have a catchy title, Calgary’s Municipal Development Plan is a recommended read for those living in Calgary now, as well as those seriously considering moving here. The Plan illustrates how our city will reshape itself over the next 30 to 60 years, during which an estimated 1.3 million more people call Calgary home. 

An idea that particularly intrigued me was the concept of creating enhanced urban corridors (think condos, shops, cafes, restaurants, patios, offices and small parks and plazas) corridors along major transit streets throughout the city.  This idea that has been incubating with City planners and politicians for a few years now, has now been rebranded as the Main Street Program (corridors sounded like a transportation initiative) and was approved by City Council in May 2014.

I have always loved the old main streets of Bowness and Montgomery and wondered why they haven’t changed much over the past 25 years as the City’s population doubled.  I also loved the Britannia and Parkdale loops with their shops and restaurants.  A good neighbourhood Main Street need only be a vibrant block or two long.

I also love the idea of the City working with landowners, communities and developers to create new vibrant Main Streets across the city where locals can walk for a coffee, yoga, dentist, and doctor or meet up with friends for a meal, a beer or a glass or two of wine.  Atlantic Avenue (9th Avenue) in Inglewood is a good example, 25 years ago it was a seedy place of pawnshops and hookers, today it is the heart of Canada’s best neighbourhood.

The City has identified 24 potential Main Streets across the city (excluding the City Center i.e. downtown and Beltline). Some are called neighbourhood main streets (1st Ave NW, Bridgeland) as the volume of traffic and the size of the road is more local, while others are known as urban main streets as the road handles much more traffic and is more regional in nature (e.g. 32th Avenue NE or 16th Ave N).

24 main streets

What will it take?

I am not the only one who has wondered why Calgary’s old retail streets have not shared in the prosperity of economic booms of the past 25 years.  I am told the land use and zoning are in place to allow for larger buildings with a greater mix of uses, but nothing has or is happening, even where there has been lots of residential infilling. Why?

A key reason is that current landowners are happy with their rate of returns, having bought the buildings many years ago for what seems like peanuts today, they are able to generate good revenue without having to invest any money in upgrading or expanding their buildings. Current owners are not motivated to sell when they are making money and the value of their land is increasing. It is the best investment in town!

The fragmented ownership of the land along these main streets also makes redevelopment difficult.  It can take years, maybe even decades, to assemble a big enough piece of land for the development of a new condo or small office building with some retail, café or restaurant space. 

A third reason for the lack of new development on retail streets in established neighbourhoods, is the difficulty in attracting new retailers and restaurants at they are surrounded by single-family homes, which means they don’t have the density needed to support new businesses.

Fourthly, the demographics in older neighbourhoods work against them as they don’t have a lot of young people (i.e. those in their high consumer years) living around them.

First Street SW is a good example of a City Centre Main Street revitalization with condos, offices, shops and restaurants, which the city hopes to duplicate in established communities (without the highrises).

First Street SW is a good example of a City Centre Main Street revitalization with condos, offices, shops and restaurants, which the city hopes to duplicate in established communities (without the highrises).

Early Public Engagement

Another barrier to redevelopment of retail areas in established neighbourhoods is the real potential of community opposition. When a new building is proposed, almost always the community has concerns about traffic, parking, crime and shadowing of nearby homes. Developers can take a year or two working with the community and City to get approval, which not only adds to the cost of the redevelopment, but the risk the project might not get approved, so they look elsewhere to invest.

Communities also often want a say in what retailers are welcome in their community. Who wants to have their community gentrified? The removal of longstanding family-owned and operated drugstore for a big chain drug store can be the cause of WWIII.

I am all for fostering mom and pop cafes, restaurants and shops as they create a unique sense of place.  Part of the charm of Inglewood (Canada’s Best Neighborhood in 2014) is that its Main Street, Atlantic Avenue, has no chain stores.

We must remember, that these tired and worn retail strips are in fact incubators for local entrepreneurs who need older buildings with low rents.  We need to find a way to include them in any Main Street redevelopment.

The additional time and money required for redesign and approval gets passed on to the tenants, making it almost impossible for “mom and pops” to afford the rent.  It also means delays in bringing the project to the market, which is why the demand for retail, office and housing currently exceeds supply in Calgary today, which in turn increases the cost to both the homebuyer and the retail tenants.

1st Street NE in Bridgeland is enjoying a renaissance as a result of new condos and new infills bringing in yuppies and empty nesters, who support increased amenities like the Bridgeland Market

Bowness has an existing Main Street, complete with angle parking. The goal is to enhance the street with more shops, cafes, restaurants,  residential and office development.

Bowness has an existing Main Street, complete with angle parking. The goal is to enhance the street with more shops, cafes, restaurants,  residential and office development.

Edmonton Trail is already a popular breakfast spot, with some shops and services, the Main Street program will encourage this to grow with more residential and commercial development on key sites. 

Edmonton Trail is already a popular breakfast spot, with some shops and services, the Main Street program will encourage this to grow with more residential and commercial development on key sites. 

14th Street SW is a prime candidate for a Main Street program on the west side of the street.  These single storey buildings could be replaced with 4 to 6 storey structures with retail, restaurants and cafes along the street. 

14th Street SW is a prime candidate for a Main Street program on the west side of the street.  These single storey buildings could be replaced with 4 to 6 storey structures with retail, restaurants and cafes along the street. 

Montgomery also has a Main Street that has great potential for increase density and diversity shopping, eating and services.

Inglewood's Main Street, aka 9th Avenue aka Atlantic Avenue is enjoying a renaissance as a result of new low-rise commercial and residential development. 

Inglewood's Main Street, aka 9th Avenue aka Atlantic Avenue is enjoying a renaissance as a result of new low-rise commercial and residential development. 

An example of affordable senior's housing that could be developed on adjacent streets near a Main Street to allow community members to age in their community. 

An example of assisted living complex in an established community that could be located next to Main Street as part of the community revitalization program. 

An example of assisted living complex in an established community that could be located next to Main Street as part of the community revitalization program. 

Early Private Engagement

At a recent meeting with developers and the City planners I heard the comment, “The City needs to help take out the front-end pain.”  To achieve this the private sector would like help with understanding the political and community support for the development of these Main Streets. Is the Councillor is on side?  We need the Councillor to become the Main Street champion.  

Everyone also agreed one of the first steps should be to prioritize which Main Streets have the best chance of success and focus on them first – building on success will be important.

Another key issue to redevelopment would be the capacity for the infrastructure to accommodate redevelopment.  One suggestion was for the City to do the infrastructure review studies for high priority Main Streets and then sell the information to perspective developers.

It was also recommended the Main Street Program not only at the actual Main Street, but also how residential redevelopment could happen along the streets flanking the proposed Main Streets to increase and diversify the market.

The development of a communication plan focusing on the benefits (e.g. aging in place, with new seniors housing) of the Main Street Program for each of the stakeholders was also thought to be a good idea.

The City planners liked the ideas and suggestions said they would discuss them with their colleagues and report back in the new year. What was really encouraging about this meeting was that the City’s planners and private sector were all singing from the same song sheet.   

What’s Next?

The City plans to form a Main Street Team (no date set) modelled after the City Centre Team which will work with the community, businesses, landowners and developers to foster the creation of new vibrant 21st century Main Streets across the city.   The 24 identified Main Streets border on 60 different Calgary communities, with a total population estimated at about 300,000 (25% of the city’s current population).

One of the key goals of our Municipal Development Plan (MDP) is to ensure established communities share future city growth.  To achieve this goal we must diversify our predominantly single-family residential established communities built from the ‘50s to the ‘80s.  These communities must evolve into more complete communities, which is defined in the MDP as “a community that is fully developed and meets the needs of local residents through an entire lifetime. Complete communities include a full range of housing, commerce, recreational, institutional and public spaces. A complete community provides a physical and social environment where residents and visitors can live, learn, work and play.   This is an ambitious goal, but if we work together we can make our city a better place for everyone. 

And wouldn’t it be great, if one day, instead of talking about NIMBYism (Not In My BackYard), we’re talking about BABBEism (Building A Better Backyard for Everyone).

If you like this blog, you might like: 

Flaneuring the TransCanada Highway 

Flaneuring 19th Street NW

Suburbs move to inner city!

 Do we all need to go back to kindergarten

Canadian Museum for Human Rights: Money Well Spent?

I received the comments below from childhood friend Bill Browett and thought that EDT readers would enjoy his insightful perspective on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Human Rights.  I have received many other comments from readers which I have added to the end of the blog.  I hope you will enjoy this revised blog. 

Bill Browett writes:

I have been thinking about this blog since you sent the link out. Rather than focus on whether the money was well spent, I was struck by your subtitle …

“Museum without artifacts …  One of the things I associate with great museums and art galleries is allowing visitors the opportunity to see things you can’t see anywhere else.  “

I too love seeing the artifacts, but mostly when I go to museums and art galleries what I am doing is looking at the stories that are told … the meta messages … Stories that reveal the attitudes and aspirations of the curators, owners, and artisans in both the artifacts and messages. Public institutions tend to tell institutional stories, and institutions pretty much by definition are conservative. Dissenting opinion is often. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) is no exception, as noted by “WB”.

Canadians have played pivotal roles in the progress of Human Rights … e.g., the creation of the UN "Universal Declaration of Human Rights” … I am all for celebrating both the positive contributions … However, these celebrations are empty and appear only as propaganda, if the institutions do not reconcile and work to reconcile Canadian failures, and entrenched cultural bigotries whether colonial and tribal [e.g., European biases] histories, e..g, genocidal policies, such as the Residential School program for First Nations children, and failure to include reconciliation in the Truth and Reconciliation process that is on-going.

I will visit the CMHR if I manage to make it to Winnipeg. Nonetheless, if the website is any indication, https://humanrights.ca/exhibit, this museum has failed to capture not only the rich, and on occasion dark history of the human rights struggles in Canada, but the CMHR has not put into a global context the Canadian struggles and contributions. … We are left with what I call a “happy face” institutional interpretation … sanitized and romanticized versions of the past.

If the CMHR, as the website suggests, has very narrowly defined the history of Human Rights, as I suspect, … then it has done a significant disservice to the many, many Canadians who have deeply sacrificed in these struggles, and worse does a disservice to current and future generations by suggesting that there are not serious conflicting histories of what Human Rights are.

Perhaps the "expressions" section of the website captures my concerns better than most, and illustrates the point of institutional messaging … (https://humanrights.ca/exhibit/expressions

 “Developed by the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, this travelling exhibition explores the ways that Canadians have defined, made and kept peace at home and around the world. Peace is examined on three levels: how we negotiate to obtain and protect it; how we organize and demonstrate to demand it; and, sometimes, how we fight to achieve it."

To no one’s surprise, and as someone who has been an active participant in the Canadian peace movement all his adult life, the content in the "expressions” section is a very narrow definition of how "Canadians have defined, made and kept peace at home and around the world."

For many of us, on many levels, Human Rights struggles continue both in Canada and around the world. Appropriately, this is the season for such reflections.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights: Money Well Spent???????

By Richard White, December 10, 2014

The September 2014 opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg was probably one of the most anticipated, new 21st century buildings in Canada. It is the first new national museum since1967 and the first outside the National Capital Region.  The design is strange, intriguing, and not just a big box museum. In the words of Antoine Predock, the architect, “ the abstract ephemeral wings of a white dove embrace a mythic stone mountain of 450-million year old Tyndall limestone in the creation of a unifying and timeless landmark.”

 Indeed, the building is a new landmark and tourist attraction for the City of Winnipeg and another wonderful new addition to the city’s urban meeting place, The Forks, which is on par with places like Vancouver’s Granville Island.

 On a recent visit to the Winnipeg, I had a chance to tour (two plus hours) the CMHR. And while I was initially impressed by the design and the exhibitions, something seemed to be wrong. At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but gradually I began to question whether Winnipeg - and Canada for that matter - got full value for the $350 million cost.

CHRM looking east is a strange juxtaposition of shapes.

The "Welcome Wall" video has a series of shadow figures who quickly enter write the word "welcome" in various different languages and then exit.

The entrance to the first exhibition hall is along this dramatic and sombre hallway.