Monday , June 14 2021

Redevelopment plan Victoria Park hits obstacle in planning committee



This presentation of Victoria Park's future development plans is included in the Rivers District Master Plan.

CMLC

An important first step in the redevelopment of eastern Victoria Park was a problem on Thursday after the city planning commission sent city officials working on the project back to the drawing board.

A series of political and statutory changes are needed for the city to begin building the Rivers District – a project aimed at transforming the besieged Victoria Park into a bustling arts and entertainment district.

At the heart of the plan for the area is a new arena, an expanded BMO Convention Center and Stampede Trail – an "iconic festival street" similar to Stephen's Avenue which could be closed to traffic and "function as an urban plaza for special events . "

But Thursday's meeting saw committee members highly critical of the proposed changes to the area's redevelopment plan. One major complaint was that the city documents referred only obliquely to a new arena to replace the aging Saddledome, characterizing it as a "facility for events."

"Is there something going on in the city you do not want to recognize?" Asked commissioner Melvin Foht. "It's overshadowed. It is so hidden. Why do not you care what it is? I find this dishonest and false. "

Commission members also criticized some of the proposed "bonus density" zoning provisions. The policy – aimed at encouraging developers to provide public services in return for additional density – seemed to allow developers to credit the creation of commercial spaces, including restaurants and cafes.

Concerns were also raised that the plan was not enough to protect the historic buildings of the warehouse along the 10th and 11th avenues S.E. to be rebuilt.

Coun. Evan Woolley said the city documents were clearly "rushed", pointing out that the council urged planners to work hard in a short period of time to accommodate deadlines for other projects, including the Green Line, the BMO Center and negotiations for a new arena.

"That seemed rushed. There's still a lot of work to do, "Woolley said. "We need to slow down a little bit about that. I have not been talking for months. There must be some reinforcement of these pieces. "

Woolley also agreed with fellow commissioners that the city should clearly identify the proposed arena in document planning.

"It should have been identified in this document. Absolutely should have. I hope these amendments and issues will be made as they are brought to the council, "Woolley said.

The plan will return to management for rework before returning to the planning committee for the second time later this month. If approved, it will be forwarded to the urban planning and development committee and then to the council.

The agenda for Thursday's meeting also included the first public release of a finalized master plan from the Rivers District – a long, 244-page document embodying the full 50-year view to the east side of downtown.

The master plan describes how the infrastructure in the Rivers District and the areas around the Saddledome will be reviewed to reconnect the neighborhood with the city's network.

Currently, East Victoria Park is little more than a parking lot, surrounded by CP rails, the Macleod Trail, the Stampede and the Elbow River.

The Calgary Municipal Land Corp will extend 17th Avenue to Stampede Park, making its way to the Elbow River and connecting to the Stampede Trail and 5th Street. A new underground passageway on 5th Street will create a new north-south link between East Village and 17th Avenue.

The plan also reveals the fate of the Calgary Flames home runway – while outlining the potential location of a new arena in the middle of Victoria Park.

The Saddledome itself is notably absent from some of the neighborhood's future renderings.

The 50-year plan shows the Saddledome still standing in 10 years, before being replaced by a "flexible flat space" – that is, a parking lot.

It is not yet clear whether the proposed city plan for Victoria Park will help or hinder negotiations for a new arena.

Talks between the city and the Calgary Flames around a new arena for the team stagnated in 2017 in the run-up to the municipal election.

Last October, at the request of a small group of councilors, the council agreed to resume negotiations.

– with files by Ryan Rumbolt

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Twitter: @mpotkins


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