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Downtown landmarks, established and in the works


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Discussions are swirling at many levels about how Calgary’s downtown can best be revitalized. While much work remains, the core has become home to myriad projects over the last decade that have broadened the area’s appeal. Here are some of those projects of the past 10 years.

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Rendering shows proposed development of Victoria Park in the Rivers District Master Plan.
Rendering shows proposed development of Victoria Park in the Rivers District Master Plan. Calgary Municipal Land Corporation rendering

River’s District: Still a much-discussed work in progress, the ambitious development project — led by Calgary Municipal Land Corp. — would transform east Victoria Park into an entertainment and culture hub anchored by a new home for the Calgary Flames, the continuing expansion of the BMO Center at Stampede Park and housing for another 8,000 new residents, among other pieces, over the next 20 years. Talks between the city and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. for a new events center were recently restarted after an agreement to replace the Saddledome collapsed last year.

The Calgary Tower was lit with the colors of the Ukrainian flag on Feb. 25, 2022.
The Calgary Tower was lit with the colors of the Ukrainian flag on Feb. 25, 2022. Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Calgary Tower illumination: The city’s most famous landmark received a brilliant update in 2014 when owner Aspen Properties overhauled its exterior lighting with a new LED upgrade that’s not only much more energy efficient but has greatly expanded the tower’s visual capabilities. The new lights — routinely calibrated to mark significant local and international events — followed Aspen’s installation of a glass floor viewing deck in 2005.

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Jack & Jean Leslie RiverWalk: The well-travelled pedestrian and cycle lanes — dotted with art installations and outsized outdoor furniture among other unique features — stretch for two kilometers along the Bow and Elbow rivers between the Center Street Bridge and 9th Avenue SE Future stages will push RiverWalk east to Victoria Crossing (13th Avenue SE) and south to Lindsay Park.

Chinook Blast: The free, month-long arts and music festival has proven a popular way to warm up the heart of winter. The mixture of art installations, ice sculptures, pop-up music performances and walking tours has attracted more than 400,000 brave souls each year since launching in 2021.

Stephen Avenue is undergoing another revival.
Stephen Avenue is undergoing another revival. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Post Media

Stephen Avenue: No longer the thriving arts, eats and retail main street it once was, the well-known stretch of Eighth Avenue spanning 4th Street SW to 1st Street SE is undergoing another revival that will return the avenue to a vibrant pedestrian hub. Following months of public engagement, that plan is now in a second phase and will lead to the release of a master plan for the street next spring.

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Wonderland: The unmistakable giant head sculpture has fast become one of Calgarians’ favorite public art pieces since it was unveiled outside The Bow office tower in 2013. Spanish artist Jaume Plensa’s 12 meter-tall white metal creation was commissioned by oil and gas companies Encana, the skyscraper’s original tenant, and Cenovus. Constructed by Calgary’s Heavy Industries, the piece drew unwanted international attention in 2014 when Jackass performer Steve-O posted a photo of himself climbing the sculpture.

Platform Innovation Center — The freshly minted, 50,000-square-foot community space is a collaborative hub for Calgary’s growing tech evolution, giving entrepreneurs a welcoming one-stop location to connect with more than 70 agencies offering support in the startup space. Even the attached seven-storey parkade is innovative, with a sport court on the main level, outdoor rental space and a designated photo area to shoot the downtown skyline.

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City Building Design Lab: The University of Calgary expanded its downtown presence in 2019 when its school of architecture, planning and landscape opened this research hub in the former WR Castell Central Library location. A store-front art gallery allows passersby to view the students’ work and learn more about sustainable cities. Inside, the lab features a variety of high-tech equipment, including robotics and 3D printers used to design building models. The U of C opened its 140,000-square-foot downtown campus a few blocks away in 2010.

To read about other downtown landmarks, go to www.calgaryherald.com/downtown.


Downtown Turnaround: A special series

Calgary’s downtown is at an important crossroads. The core needs to be revitalized as the city recovers from the pandemic, an economic downturn, labor shortages and unprecedented office vacancy rates. In this special report, Postmedia Calgary looks at the downtown dilemma, potential solutions and transformative successes.

Tuesday, June 21: Farming in the Calgary Tower — new ideas envision a different downtown for city

Wednesday, June 22: Dealing with the towering problem of office vacancies

Thursday, June 23: Boosting downtown safety

Friday, June 24: Learning lessons from other cities

Saturday, June 25: Two dozen Calgarians share their thoughts on the core

To see more related content and videos, go to calgaryherald.com/downtown.

What are your ideas for revitalizing the downtown? Tell us at reply@calgaryherald.com.

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