A look back at 2023 as we ready ourselves for the year ahead

    Year in Review Collage
    · 6 min read
    • Photograph of Kate Thompson, President & CEO of CMLC.

      Kate Thompson

      President & CEO

    It’s been another busy, exciting year here in downtown Calgary’s east end!

    As CMLC shepherds East Village into its 15th year of master-planned redevelopment, and as our city-building projects in Calgary’s emerging Culture + Entertainment District prepare for completion in 2024, the Rivers District is abuzz with construction and alive with excitement.

    Among the many significant accomplishments we and our partners have shared over the past year, a few deserve special mention as they underscore the passion, creativity and get-it-done spirit that the CMLC team brings to our role as Calgary’s go-to city-building placemakers.

    Stampede Trail Breaks Ground

    In April, we and our partners at the Calgary Stampede broke ground on our Stampede Trail reconstruction project. An important dimension of the C+E vision, this flexible retail corridor will be a vital connector between 12 Ave SE and the new 17 Ave SE extension. We’ve designed Stampede Trail for easy conversion to a ‘festival street’ that can be closed to traffic for special events. Phase 1 of Stampede Trail was completed in early December.

    BMO Centre Expansion at Sunset
    Progress on Stampede Trail from June 2023.

    Arts Commons and Olympic Plaza Transformations Progress Together

    In June, The City of Calgary, CMLC and Arts Commons announced the initiation of the Olympic Plaza Transformation—a city-building endeavour to restore a beloved cultural landmark as a seamless extension of Arts Commons. The design team—announced in fall 2023—will reimagine the plaza as an innovative, flexible and arts-focused space in the downtown core. The Olympic Plaza Transformation further builds on the exciting momentum of the Arts Commons Transformation project; this year, we advanced the design for the $480M expansion and modernization, which, together with Olympic Plaza’s transformation, will result in a larger, more integrated Arts Commons campus.

    Olympic Plaza Design Team stands together in Olympic Plaza
    Members of the Olympic Plaza Transformation prime design team from the announcement on Nov 9, 2023. From L-R, Michael Magnan (Aecom), Elise Shelley (gh3), Jérôme Glad (Belleville Placemaking), Jérôme Barth (Belleville Placemaking), Darby Lee Young (Level Playing Field), Richard Freeman (gh3), Pat Hanson (gh3), Yannick Roberge (CCxA), Alex Sarian (Arts Commons), Kate Thompson (CMLC), Thom Mahler (City of Calgary), Marc Hallé (CCxA), Kelly Coles (CMLC).

    EV606 Breaks Ground

    Also in June, Alston Properties broke ground for EV606—a six-storey mixed-use building on a premier riverfront parcel in East Village. Located immediately west of the historic Simmons building, EV606 will combine 44 residential units with nearly 10,000 sq ft of street-level retail.

    CMLC President & CEO Kate Thompson and Bryce Alston, Director of Alston Properties celebrate the groundbreaking of EV606 on June 12, 2023.

    Pixel Park Opens

    In October, CMLC added another colourful and captivating community gathering space to downtown’s east end. Named for its vibrant video game-inspired motif, Pixel Park brings an off-leash dog park, pickleball courts, a skate park, and spaces that accommodate community programming initiatives to The Culture + Entertainment District. The new (and already wildly popular) space is also home to Calgary’s largest electric vehicle charging site, developed with Tesla Motors Canada.

    A photograph of CEO Kate Thompson and Ward 8 Councillor Courtney Walcott reveal the Pixel Park Sign
    CMLC President & CEO Kate Thompson and Ward 8 Councillor Courtenay Walcott reveal a new sign at the opening of Pixel Park on October 13, 2023.

    Public Art at the BMO Centre Expansion

    In November, CMLC and the Calgary Stampede announced that renowned artist Gerry Judah’s Spirit of Water, a 70-foot steel splash, as the landmark art piece for the BMO Centre expansion. The $500-million expansion of Calgary’s premier convention venue—a major capital project that’s more than doubling the facility’s rentable floor space and making it the largest such venue in Western Canada—took major strides forward in 2023 as crews of around 600 workers a day installed drywall and the building’s mechanical and electrical systems. The new venue is on schedule to open for Stampede 2024.

    Spirit of Water design reveal
    Mayor Jyoti Gondek, artist Gerry Judah, CMLC President & CEO Kate Thompson and Calgary Stampede Director of Park Development Kerri Souriol at the announcement of Gerry Judah and the Spirit of Water on November 1, 2023.

    The Switch at Victoria Park/Stampede Station

    In December, we took a giant step toward completing our rebuild of the Victoria Park/Stampede LRT station, designed to treat transit users to a much more modern and accessible station. The switch to the station’s new platforms marked a major project milestone. Final touches on the new LRT station and the eagerly anticipated extension of 17 Ave SE into Stampede Park will continue through spring 2024 in concert with the BMO Centre expansion. Keeping the district’s momentum (and its many residents and visitors) moving safely forward.

    A photograph of Victoria Park / Stampede Station
    Drone photo captured of the Switch at Victoria Park/Stampede station from December 2023.

    As we oversee construction projects with hundreds of crew members onsite daily while expanding the programming that attracts millions to downtown’s east end every year, keeping everything and everyone safely on track is no small feat.

    This is why CMLC’s function as district construction coordinator—a vital complement to our work as community master planners and city builders—is so important. As major projects near completion and others, like the Calgary Event Centre and the 6 Street S.E. Underpass, get underway, continued collaboration and coordination will be critical to our shared success in The C+E.

    Mind you, virtually every project we’ve undertaken since CMLC was formed in 2007 has been prologued by “This won’t be easy”—and as we’ve proven time and again, we’re up to the task. But we can’t do it alone. We’re grateful to our partners at the Calgary Stampede, Arts Commons, The City of Calgary and Calgary Sport and Entertainment Corporation for their continued support and collaboration as we work to realize our shared vision for Calgary’s bold future.

    2024 is shaping up to be a transformational year for downtown Calgary’s east end, and we can’t wait to tackle it together.

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