A vision for the Rivers District

A neighbourhood that dances to the beat of its own drummer.

Image Source: CMLC

Currently, two rivers run through east Victoria Park. 

But the area will become Calgary’s Cultural and Entertainment District. That means the Bow and the Elbow will one day also see a steady stream of people taking in all the area has to offer.

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) recently unveiled a master plan for the Rivers District. It envisions “a vibrant, high-density, mixed-use community” in an area that is now characterized by “large format buildings set within fields of surface parking.”

While the Rivers District has been in the works for a while, the Master Plan is the first public release of a finalized vision. At 244 pages, it’s not light reading, but it’s a bit of a page turner. The document includes a vision for a completely transformed area, including:

  • 4th Street SE becomes Stampede Trail, a “festival street” with bars, restaurants and shops. It would also serve as new gateway to Stampede Park;
  • an expansion to the BMO Centre that connects it to Stampede Trail;
  • a new event plaza that functions as a central gathering place;
  • new mid-rise residential developments geared toward families. The neighbourhood would be home to some 8,000 people;
  • a new event centre that will take the place of the Saddledome.

The master plan also includes a host of infrastructure changes: 

  • 12th Avenue, east of 6th Street could be a “special festival street” and could be closed to cars;
  • a new underpass at 5th Street SE would strengthen the connection with the East Village;
  • rather than stopping at Macleod Trail, 17th Avenue SE would connect to the Stampede Grounds;
  • the cycle tracks on 9th and 12th Avenues will connect with the Elbow River pathway;
  • MacDonald Bridge will be for pedestrians and cyclists. A new bridge would handle vehicle traffic.

The area would still be home to the Calgary Stampede, and the new event centre would take the place of the Saddledome. This proved to be a bit of a hiccup when the CMLC presented its vision to the Planning Commission. Talks between The City and the Flames were contentious and are now stalled. The Planning Commission has asked the CMLC for more details on a new arena and the preservation of the area’s historic buildings.

It’s something of a setback. But when the vision is for a 50-year-long transformation, a little more time on the drawing board is not a big problem.

January 14th, 2019
Updated: January 21st, 2019

The Rivers District Master Plan lays out the roadmap for creating Calgary’s Cultural and Entertainment District.