The Centre Street North corridor from the Bow River to McKnight Boulevard is one of Calgary's most important gateways to the downtown.
Completed in 1916, the Centre Street Bridge connects Calgary's historic Chinatown across the Bow river to the north. Centre Street passes along the communities of Crescent Heights, Tuxedo and Highland Park. Similar to many of Calgary's main streets, Centre Street was home to a streetcar system, and will continue to be a transit artery. Centre Street is home to a diverse array of businesses and residents, and has unique stretches of residential and commercial development. Tigerstadt block on Centre Street was home to Tigerstadt Photo Studios, where some of the first images of the Calgary Stampede parades were developed.
Listening and learning
Main street users provided their input at workshops, through an online mapping activity, online surveys, and at information sessions. Through the input shared by Calgarians, City staff learned what’s working or needs improvement for each of Calgary’s main streets. Learn more
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.
The Main Streets team is working closely with City planners, urban designers and Green Line teams to refine land use and policy improvements to enable growth and mobility enhancements in this area.
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 Centre Street N key findings
View full report of what we’ve learned
Local statistics and growth targets
Growth for this main street area is significantly less than the Municipal Development Plan target. The most relevant factors contributing to this are market desire and consumer preference, which haven’t driven redevelopment. Land use districts (zoning) must be in place to enable redevelopment potential to increase to desired population and employment levels, but strong market interest is a key for fueling new construction. Support from City services and infrastructure can have a positive impact on market demand and will contribute to the evolution of this main street.
Based on the 2011 Census, Centre Street accounts for over 9,500 homes, or about 2.1% of the Calgary housing inventory.
Centre Street has a significantly higher than average share of multifamily units, especially in low-rise apartments and detached duplexes. The housing in this neighbourhood is considerably older than the city wide average, where units are likely to have been built before 1960. Given the historic and inner-city nature of this corridor, the overall age of its housing stock aligns with expectations and suggests that many units may be reaching the end of their lifecycle and may be ready for redevelopment. The result is a total of some 3,286 residential units built over the next 25 years, starting more slowly between 2016 and 2020.
Centre Street N has about 358,000 square feet of office space accounting for about 0.44% of the city wide inventory. It is important to note that most of the existing buildings are still fully leased, despite the recent economic slowdown and high overall vacancy rates. As of December 2015, there were no proposed office properties within the Centre Street N corridor boundary.
Existing local planning
Centre Street N is one of the longer Municipal Development Plan main streets with a variety of contexts. It was evaluated in two separate sections.
Centre Street N from the Bow River to 16 Avenue N
Centre Street N is a community hub for the adjacent community of Crescent Heights, as well as a regional draw for many Calgarians to enjoy the diverse and interesting restaurants and wide range of commercial services. This main street is successful and provides an important cultural and recreational space for many. This section of the main street has the Crescent Heights Area Redevelopment Plan (1997) to provide land use policy, which generally supports Municipal Development Plan policies for low scale, mixed use main street redevelopment.
Centre Street N from 16 Avenue N to McKnight Boulevard
North of 16 Avenue the main street is primarily local commercial areas north to 31 Avenue, then mostly low density residential. These commercial and low density residential areas along Centre Street N have policy direction from the North Hill Area Redevelopment Plan, approved by City Council in 2000. The North Hill Area Redevelopment Plan generally supports Municipal Development Plan policies for low scale, mixed use main street redevelopment along Centre Street N.
Centre Street N is intended to be an urban main street, serving the neighbourhood, but also acting as a welcoming destination for all of north-central Calgary. Even if all properties were redeveloped to the maximum allowed by current zoning, population and employment would fall short of the growth targets outlined in the Municipal Development Plan. Increased population is required to support transit and services. Rezoning along Centre Street would facilitate more mixed use development along a major travel artery and allow greater convenience to residents and visitors as well as access to the future Green Line LRT service.
Centre Street is a major north-south transportation route between the Bow River and McKnight Boulevard, which cuts through the residential communities of Crescent Heights, Tuxedo Park and Highland Park. Along the main street is primarily commercial buildings with quiet residential blocks behind it.
In 1906, Archibald J. McArthur, an early developer, purchased and subdivided the district he named Crescent Heights. Along with other investors, he financed the original Centre Street Bridge to draw development toward Crescent Heights. In 1908, The City of Calgary extended its boundaries to include Crescent Heights and the nearby subdivision of Tuxedo Park.
Because of its prohibitively steep grade, Centre Street was bypassed for a streetcar line. A new Centre Street bridge design was selected instead to solve this challenge by cutting through the Centre Street hill to create a moderate grade and direct route to Crescent Heights.
In 1919, a streetcar line was installed across the newly designed bridge, giving local commuters direct access to the downtown core. The late 1920s saw brisk development in Crescent Heights, mostly with single-family bungalows typical of the time. As the population continued to grow, The City widened the bridge to include four lanes of traffic and a double line of streetcar tracks.
Before 1950, Centre Street was primarily a residential area, this changed in 1954, when 16 Avenue N was incorporated as part of the Trans-Canada Highway and Centre Street became an important connector route. The street also developed a more automobile-focused, commercial character with modest, vernacular, low-rise commercial buildings, still evident today.