Calgary, Alberta

Nicknamed “Cowtown,” the city of Calgary historically served as the center of Canada’s cattle and meatpacking industries. In recent decades, a booming oil industry and the nation’s fastest-growing economy have swelled Calgary’s increasingly diverse population to more than a million people—demanding more urbanized development patterns. With a density 13 times greater than Calgary as a whole, the Currie redevelopment has risen to the occasion.

“This is a courageous project both in terms of heritage, density transfer, and elimination of parking,” says Roy Wright of the Calgary Planning Commission. “The location is a perfect spot to run such a pilot.”

Currie Calgary site plan
The site plan for the Currie redevelopment. Source: Urban Design Associates.

The redevelopment of the 165-acre former barracks just southwest of the Downtown Core preserves historic buildings and military landscapes like the former parade grounds. The plan, under construction, also calls for high-rise buildings with bases that form pedestrian-friendly streets, like downtown Vancouver—one of the world’s most livable cities.

Currie will be home to up to 12,000 people—while providing fantastic new public spaces for the city. Skillful use of building types smoothes the transition to adjacent lower-density neighborhoods and Mount Royal University.

The design team worked with city officials to relocate a bus-rapid transit corridor, bringing metro-wide accessibility within a five-minute walk of all Currie residents. Bike lanes throughout the district will add to transportation connectivity. An innovative pedestrian mews network complements the street grid and makes for smaller blocks and better bicycle and pedestrian access to services, schools, and commerce.

Currie Calgary ground level
A ground-level view of the Currie redevelopment. Source: Urban Design Associates.

Calgary needs urban neighborhoods that respond to the cold weather and low-angle sunlight in spring, fall, and winter months. The heart of the plan—a plaza, four blocks of main street, and blocks that branch off of these areas—will have retail frontage with weather-protection canopies.

Canadian cities like Calgary are embracing dense urban neighborhoods— which have long been prominent in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Currie is a big step forward in implementation and sophistication of the new urban plan.

Top photo: An aerial of the Currie redevelopment project. Source: Urban Design Associates.

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