News / Calgary

City of Calgary's 'well-loved' Stephen Avenue up for repair – and the options are endless

City's latest improvement project will revamp historic pedestrian mall according to business and citizen feedback

Downtown Calgary's Stephen Avenue.

Jennifer Friesen / for Metro

Downtown Calgary's Stephen Avenue.

Stephen Avenue, the pulse of downtown Calgary, is in for a change of pace and at this point, anything is on the table.

A long process, beginning in 2018, will launch a mega-task: giving one of the city's most vibrant streetscapes a facelift that, depending on public feedback, could permanently change how the avenue operates or is as simple as replacing the walkway and canopy boxes.

Graham Gerylo, project manager with urban strategies at the City of Calgary for the Stephen Avenue Master Plan, said there are three main aspects on the city's wishlist with this endeavour to refresh the stretch that has served citizens for more than 20 years since its last upgrade.

The main reason behind Stephen Avenue's slated revamp are the pesky bricks, which every year are more frequently becoming tripping hazards as they deteriorate – it's a cut and dried lifecycle update for the stretch that needs to be done.

Another item on the wish list is the tree boxes that were built back in the 80s as concrete boxes – they choke out trees and mean replacements need to be planted every five years. Finally, the street furniture, which some have pointed out isn't very welcoming, also needs modernizing.

"It's a well-loved street, and it's a well-used street and it certainly is starting to show its age," Gerylo said. "The street was last fully renovated back in the 80s ... considering the volumes of pedestrians that visit the mall every day it's starting to show a little deterioration."

But other than those points, anything is possible – subject to public and business consultation.

"We no longer need to cage people when they're out having a drink at a patio, it could really open up the street into something magical," said Coun. Druh Farrell.

"We could create something very European in its character."

She said looking at new outdoor patio rules and working with the AGLC could open up new possibilities for the avenue.

"We can reduce some of the clutter, we can make it more accessible, we can make it more pedestrian friendly," said Farrell.

One thing that could happen is the closure of the avenue for vehicular traffic, but Gerylo said that would take some careful planning.

"In the future, access we believe would still be needed for police, fire and ambulances on the street," Gerylo said.

"Also with the historical nature of the buildings some buildings don't have the best rear access for servicing – deliveries often need to be done from the street."

In early 2019, he said a design and concept should be ready for the public to see with some quick win implementations a possibility as well. Then, it's a matter of carefully planning what could be a tricky balance between supporting business and construction simultaneously.

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