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Bowness Road NW (Bowness)

Main Streets

Planning the future of Calgary's thriving main streets.

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Land use zoning changes

    Bowness Road NW (Bowness)

    The Bowness Road NW main street is located in the community of Bowness, stretching from Bow Crescent to 60 Street NW.


    The community of Bowness was actually once a town until it was amalgamated by Calgary in 1963. The residents of Bowness, called "Bownesians", enjoy the community's diversity and friendly neighbourhood character. Bowness Road was recently upgraded as a "Complete Street" with a bike lane installed between 48 Avenue and 70 Street NW.

    Public Input

    Comments were compiled from the Main Streets public engagement activities which took place from November 2014 through May 2015. The top issues, opportunities and outcomes were ranked in order of consensus and ratings from citizens. This input will be analyzed to inform the planning strategy for each main street.

    View full size map

    What we've heard

    Top comments (ranked in order of citizen rating)


    1. Maintain angled parking along Bowness Road
    2. More green space because there are lots of opportunities - Performance space/stage on main street or in The Hub, outdoor concert area, Farmers' Market
    3. Patios


    1. Bowness mall needs attention (multiple ownership is an issue)
    2. Lack of green space and places for people to sit and gather
    3. Street is not really animated in evening


    1. Small town feel
    2. Flexible, temporary active spaces
    3. Close knit community

    View map for full summary

    What we've learned

    To start developing solutions which ensure the future success of Calgary’s main street neighbourhoods, City planners listened and learned from main street users, neighbourhood residents, industry experts and economic specialists to understand the unique challenges and opportunities for growth and development in these areas.

    View Bowness Road NW key findings

    View full report of what we've learned​

    Local statistics and growth targets

    Growth potential

    Growth for this main street area is close to the Municipal Development Plan desired target. The most relevant factors that narrow this gap are market desire and consumer preference; there is modest market desire to accommodate development at a level similar to Municipal Development Plan goals. Land use districts (zoning) must be in place to enable redevelopment to reach desired population and employment levels. Support from City services and infrastructure can have a positive impact on market demand and will contribute to the evolution of this main street.


    Market outlook

    Geographically, this is among the most outlying of Calgary’s main streets. It is a relatively low density built environment, which has seen little new development in the recent past. It is not anticipated to see any broad-scale redevelopment for some time. Other main streets are better positioned to attract redevelopment, and therefore this is considered a longer-term growth opportunity. 

    The result is a total of some 86 residential units to be built over the next 25 years, starting slowly between 2016 and 2020. Additional commercial and retail opportunities in the area will be driven by population growth in the immediate area.


    Existing local planning

    Local planning

    The current Bowness Area Redevelopment Plan was approved in 1995 with only minor changes since then. The Bowness Area Redevelopment Plan provides policy that promotes and encourages the success and growth on the commercial area along this main street and aims to maintain this as a key part of the community. The built form-scale policy within the Bowness Area Redevelopment Plan matches the current adjacent low-density residential districts.

    Current zoning

    Bowness Road NW is the heart of Bowness and is a great example of a prairie main street. Current zoning does not allow for development to reach the population and employment targets outlined in the Municipal Development Plan. Along the main street itself, the zoning does allow for low-rise mixed use development, but the current land use population allowances are not necessarily sufficient enough to prompt redevelopment. Rezoning could allow greater flexibility for mixed-use along Bowness Road and offer more options in terms of row or townhouses as a further transition, allowing more households and businesses to choose Bowness.


    Bowness Road circa 1955, Glenbow archives

    The Bowness Road NW main street is a busy traffic street running through the northwest community of Bowness, with a central historic main street dating from 1932. The main street area includes most of the former streetcar route, streetscapes, views to surrounding hills, and schools and civic buildings which date to the existence of Bowness as an independent town (1948-64).

    The Bowness Road NW commercial strip is the symbolic civic, commercial and social heart of Bowness. The broad street with angled parking and a low-scale collection of vernacular 1930s-60s commercial buildings, reflect Bowness’ image of an independent prairie town distinct from other commercial streets in Calgary.

    In 1890, Thomas Stone, a prominent social and civic figure, established the Bowness Ranche from which the town of Bowness and road eventually took their name. Bowness Road’s layout follows the original 1911 subdivision design by H.L. Seymour, a notable Canadian town planner who believed that plans must fit their topography. His design, deliberately integrates the natural features, islands, riverbanks, hillsides and escarpment of the area.

    Bowness Road also has important associations with developer John Hextall, who, following his vision of an upscale suburb, laid the groundwork for successful future growth. His bridge and streetcar line enabled Bowness to become a garden suburb, and the park and golf course established the area as a destination.

    Two key components of neighborhood planning have been seamlessly integrated from the original subdivision plan into the Bowness we recognize today. The first is neighbourhood unit planning - central located parks with public buildings, and the location of small shopping centres and apartments near a main road. The second is a neighbourhood unit style commercial centre and adjacent community-oriented areas such as the library and former town hall, which contribute to the feeling of a true ‘town centre’.

    The street evolved during the 1930’s from a mainly residential street to a commercial street when the Bowness Realizations Company sold land at greatly reduced prices and eased land use restrictions to attract people to the area. A number of historic buildings and spaces still exist in the area today including the Bowness Composite High School, Bowness Community Centre, and Bowglen and Queen Elizabeth Parks.​​​​​​​​​​​​

    What's next

    All of the public input and discussion with experts throughout the project included one common concept; focus the effort of the Main Streets initiative work on a few key or strategic streets in the short term to maximize chances of success. By analysing local input, economic information and infrastructure investments, the Main Streets team identified which main streets are good candidates for development and growth in the near future.

    Once that success has been tested, it will then be applied to main streets across Calgary as the timing for growth makes sense based on the unique needs of each street.

    Based on all the information gathered, a series of proposed solutions have been created which would enable growth in main street areas that have been identified as ready for development. To learn more about the areas with rezoning options and Area Development Plan amendments being reviewed and considered for approval in the near future, visit the Main Streets' rezoning information page.

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