The original function of 1st Avenue N.E. was disrupted in the early 1980s when four blocks of retail was removed and replaced with parking lots for the Calgary General Hospital. The remaining businesses relied heavily on hospital staff and visitors for customers.
When the hospital was closed and demolished, it had a huge impact on these businesses. As a result, revitalization of 1st Avenue N.E. became a priority objective and was a determining factor in making this area Phase 1 of The Bridges.
The challenge was to re-create a main street that would once again serve the needs of the community. This was achieved by the following:
- Re-establishing the blocks on 1st Avenue N.E. lost to surface parking lots;
- Extending the new tree lined streets from The Bridges into the existing neighbourhood blocks;
- Creating a visual interest with continuous street-level façades;
- Building General Plaza which created a gathering place for residents and commercial patrons;
- Providing a streetscape that promotes safe and attractive strolling;
- Creating a rhythm and pattern of commercial development on both sides of 1st Avenue N.E.;
- Establishing a land use that allows for mixed-use with retail on the main level & residential above;
- Limiting the size of shops and restaurants through the land use to attract smaller local businesses and avoid larger regional restaurants and retail stores;
- Building traffic calming measures such as traffic “bulbs” and crosswalks to allow safe crossing across 1st Avenue N.E.;
- Parking standards for businesses were reduced and on-street parking was permitted as part of their parking requirements;
- Live-work units were built along 1st Avenue N.E.
Today 1st Avenue N.E. boasts a variety of commercial establishments including locally owned restaurants, coffee shops, dry cleaners, a boutique grocery store and other services that meet the needs of local residents.