Calgarians will see stepped-up construction in Victoria Park this year as work continues on several major city projects.
Demolition of the Stampede Corral is already underway to make room for the $500-million BMO Centre expansion, with groundbreaking to more than double the convention centre space expected later in 2021. Construction of Calgary’s new arena — also called an event centre — is anticipated to start this year, along with an overhaul of the Victoria Park/Stampede CTrain station that will connect 17th Avenue S.E. with Stampede Park.
The Calgary Municipal Land Corp. (CMLC) is managing all the projects, and president and CEO Kate Thompson said Thursday that despite the COVID pandemic, work remains on track.
The design and construction team for Calgary’s $550-million Saddledome replacement was announced last year, but Thompson said they aren’t ready to reveal what the building might look like yet.
“That’s a really large project and we have to make sure everything is on the right track and make sure it’s heading in the right direction, and right now it is,” she said.
Meanwhile, the existing concrete walkway and spiral staircase leading to Victoria Park/Stampede station will be taken down this year. The plan is to redesign the station so 17th Avenue can extend into Stampede Park and pedestrian access becomes more seamless.
CMLC is expecting to close the station over several long weekends between now and 2023 to accommodate work that can’t be done while the LRT is running through the area.
The BMO Centre expansion and the new arena are both expected to be completed in 2024.
CMLC is also wrapping up two additional projects this year: East Village Place renovations will be finished in March, and the 9th Avenue S.E. parkade and Platform Innovation Centre with meeting and office space for startups and entrepreneurs will open in the fall.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said all the construction sends a positive signal, despite the economic blows Calgary has been dealt.
“What people will see is that this is a city that is not down, a city that is not out, but a city that is investing very strongly in its future,” he said.
CMLC also announced Thursday that Colliers will take on project management for the transformation of Arts Commons, and New York firm Fisher Dachs Associates has been selected as the theatre consultant.
Full funding for the two-part Arts Commons project hasn’t yet been confirmed. It involves creating a new building adjacent to the existing one and renovating the current venue.
COVID has posed a particular challenge for the performing arts, with live, in-person performances cancelled amid public-health restrictions. Arts Commons CEO Alex Sarian said they’ve been adapting to offer performances virtually, and demand has been high.
“As arts organizations and theatre companies and dance companies are ready to bounce back in 2021 and beyond, I think the worst thing we could do is be ready to reopen and have the arts community in Calgary having completely disappeared.”
CMLC anticipates bringing the rest of the Arts Commons design team on board this summer. Project design will likely be released in mid-2022.
“We’ve said we want to focus on functionality first and design from the inside out,” Sarian said.
“It should be a calling card for Calgary to say, ‘We’ve reimagined and we’ve become an international model of what the performing arts centres of the 21st century could look like.’”