Arts Commons Transformation Project

Priority Capital Projects Arts Commons Transformation

For the last 35 years, Arts Commons has been a key contributor to social, economic, cultural, and intellectual life in Calgary. As Canada’s third largest arts centre, it is home to six resident companies and used by over 200 community groups.

The Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) project of expanding and upgrading Arts Commons supports the goal of improving and diversifying Calgary’s economy. It supports the Downtown Strategy and is considered a catalyst project for the Culture + Entertainment District.

Project update - September 2022

Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), together with partners Arts Commons and The City of Calgary, confirmed the team that will lead the design for the expansion and renewal of Arts Commons, one of Canada’s largest and most vibrant arts centres, through the Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) project.

Over the past year, the project partners have been working through the planning process—creating the functional plan and the business model for the expansion, conducting a building assessment and carrying out public engagement—effectively setting the stage for the prime design team to begin this next exciting chapter in the ACT story. The ACT prime design team is an impressive collection of local and global leaders in architecture and design who will bring a rich variety of perspectives and specialties to this major civic upgrade.

Heading up the team is Toronto-based KPMB, a pedigreed architectural firm with proven expertise in major arts and theatre projects. They will work closely with Tawaw Architecture Collective Inc., headed by Calgarian (and Canada’s first female First Nations architect) Wanda Dalla Costa, to ensure the Indigenous perspective is thoughtfully and meaningfully woven into all aspects of the design. Rounding out the project team are Calgary-based Hindle Architects, a trusted local firm with a history of successful projects around Calgary; and SLA, an internationally renowned nature-based design studio out of Denmark.

EllisDon, a leader in large-scale construction for more than 70 years, will serve as Construction Manger on the project, collaborating with the prime design team through the concept and schematic design phases to advise on the constructability and delivery of the project while it is being designed, streamlining the transition from design to development when the time comes to break ground.

Check out Arts Commons Transformation for more details on the design team and the overall investment for this city building initiative. 

The Project

Executed in two Phases, Arts Commons Transformation will both expand capacity in an adjoining new building and renew the existing facility.

Phase one of the transformation will expand capacity at a new location called Arts Commons North, or The Roadhouse. The Road House will include three versatile, purpose-built venues, a connection to the existing building and supporting amenities. This 173,000 square-foot space will include a new 1,200 seat theatre, two smaller theatres, rehearsal space and an elevated corridor to the existing building and related amenities.

Phase two of the Arts Commons Transformation involves the revitalization of the existing facility. Arts Commons South or The Resident House will be redesigned and will create a civic arts centre that is more accessible, with upgraded amenities and technology. The Resident House is currently home to six resident companies.

Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), a wholly owned subsidiary of The City of Calgary and steward of the Rivers District Master Plan, is serving as Development Manager for the Arts Commons Transformation project on behalf of the project partners Arts Commons and The City of Calgary. 

Benefits to Calgarians

  • Job Creation

    During the construction of both phases of Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) 3,155 jobs will be created that will generate $239 M in Labour Income. [1]

  • Invest in Calgarians

    Arts Commons is one of several major infrastructure projects that will have a positive impact on the revitalization of the downtown core, the diversification of our economy and the future of our City.

  • Economic Growth

    Once complete, Arts Commons and their resident companies will annually generate $53 M to Calgary GDP and support 683 jobs that will generate $34 M in Labour Income. [1]

[1] Economic Contribution Analysis, Deloitte 2019.


The design process for Phase one and Phase two is funded through $25 million of Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) approved by Calgary City Council on September 30, 2019. The design process will utilize a portion of the funding with the remaining balance being held for construction of Phase one once funding is in place.

Project background

Phases of the Arts Commons transformation

Located in downtown Calgary, Arts Commons has been home to arts and culture since 1985. Resident companies include Alberta Theatre Projects, Arts Commons Presents, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, DownStage, One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre and Theatre Calgary. It officially opened September 14, 1985 by then Premier of Alberta, Peter Lougheed. The oldest part of the city block that houses the Arts Commons is the Burns Building, which was constructed in 1912. This laid the foundation for the current building, along with the Calgary Public Building (built in 1930/31) which were incorporated into the plan for the Arts Centre. In December 2014, the Centre was rebranded as Arts Commons. This expanded the organization’s offerings beyond the performing arts.


Project Partners

Other projects

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