Calgary seeks public feedback on sketches of ‘reimagined’ Stephen Avenue
The City of Calgary has released some sketches of what Stephen Avenue could look like reimagined and the city is looking to hear from Calgarians on what they think.
“The work that we are doing on Stephen Avenue is a focal point of the city, the downtown strategy and our partners’ efforts to revitalize the downtown into an attractive place to live, work and visit,” project manager Jenna Matthews told Global News.
On Feb. 6, online engagement opened on the city’s portal for the second phase of the project, providing a look at what a redesigned streetscape could look like.
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The proposed key design concepts include creating conditions for a healthy tree canopy, designing flexible spaces that can be used to gather, improving lighting along the street, paving the stretch of roadway to make it easier for people of all abilities and modes to travel, and creating portals to the avenue and the Plus 15 network.
Some businesses along Stephen Avenue would welcome a return of foot traffic to the area, along with improvements to beautify the area.
“Lighting is huge for Stephen Avenue,” said Jorelle Raquidan, assistant manager at eatery The Guild.
“Most of the clientele are corporate, so as soon as the darkness hits, most of the people already leave downtown and go somewhere else. But lighting definitely helps.”
“Trees — we don’t see a lot along Stephen Avenue, so it’s going to be a really big plus for us if we get that extra view,” Raquidan added.
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The streetscape design is looking at creating two different street types in its 2.1-kilometre stretch: a multimodal street zone that allows for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, and a shared street that gives pedestrians the priority while restricting access to private vehicles. The multimodal zone is proposed for the west end of the avenue.
The eastern end of the passage would be pedestrian-prioritized in “a vibrant space for everyday life, larger gatherings and celebrations where there’s a mix of cultural institutions, historic buildings and retail,” Matthews said.
Stephen Avenue is described as the flagship project for the city’s downtown revitalization strategy, and work on the avenue began in 2019.
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“We know Stephen Avenue means something different for everyone. We want it to be a welcoming space that encourages all Calgarians to come downtown. All seasons, all times of the day, on all days of the week,” Matthews said.
“Through our engagement, we really want to hear about what types of activities, uses and amenities are desired here and how the plan can support what Calgarians want most.”
The city has an upcoming virtual open house on Feb. 15, with an aim to get shovels in the ground within two years.
Stephen Avenue is known for its sandstone architecture that dates back to 1880. In 1886, a great fire tore through most of the 70 wooden buildings that made up the downtown back then.
City council passed a law requiring buildings to be made of non-flammable material, and with sandstone in supply along the banks of the Bow and Elbow river, the downtown started to rebuild.
The route for Calgary’s first streetcars, Stephen Avenue was declared a national historic site in 2002. Approximately three dozen buildings from the 1880 to 1930 era — mostly stores, banks and a church — were recognized.
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