Why it’s time to enact change on Stephen Avenue
Stephen Avenue is, and always has been, Calgary’s iconic downtown main street. It has played various roles and functions over its history to ensure it stays a vital part of working and living downtown. The success of Stephen Avenue is inextricably linked to the success of our downtown. It provides a wide array of amenities to downtown office workers, residents, local visitors and tourists who visit to dine, shop, play, and enjoy the many arts and culture offerings available on any given day.
In recent times, Stephen Avenue has encountered some challenges that are making it less vibrant than it once was. In some ways, these challenges mirror those faced by Calgary’s downtown more broadly due to a decline in the downtown workforce; an increase in office, retail and hospitality vacancies; and increasing concern from citizens and business owners that the physical condition of the avenue is in decline as it approaches the end of its usable life-cycle.
We are embarking on an exciting journey to reimagine Stephen Avenue and position it for a renewed era of success. As a flagship project for Calgary’s Downtown Strategy, The Future of Stephen Avenue project provides a foundation for The City to collaborate with stakeholders to consider and implement strategic improvements – whether near, medium or longer term – that will re-position Stephen Avenue, and ensure its future as Calgary’s hallmark downtown main street.
Stephen Avenue is Calgary’s main connector to arts, culture and commerce and offers a stage for experimentation and innovation.
A 21st century street, Stephen Avenue links Calgary’s walkable urban core to its neighbourhoods through a great public realm. Active day and night, and throughout the year, Stephen Avenue is a catalyst for a resilient economy, enabling adaptation towards Calgary’s future. As Calgary’s premier local and tourist destination, Stephen Avenue fosters social interaction, civic gathering, and community pride.
Goals for Stephen Avenue
Arts, culture and commerce
- Make Stephen Avenue’s cultural assets more visible and integrated with the avenue, allowing for greater access to, and participation in, arts, culture & education.
- Promote economic resiliency of the Greater downtown by providing diverse retail and commercial experiences, combined with hybrid building uses.
- Amplify the human environment, celebrate heritage buildings, and provide varied ground floor uses and a rhythm of active building facades.
Experimentation and innovation
- Provide opportunities for public engagement and experimentation by working with downtown partners and removing bureaucratic barriers.
Network and connection
- Promote environmental resiliency through green street links between the downtown core and the Bow riverfront.
- Make Stephen Avenue easy to navigate for all ages and abilities.
- Make walking a great experience – a rhythm of connected points of interest to spur curiosity and invite people to wander, explore and linger.
Programs and activation
- Foster socialization and gathering, while making everyone feel welcome.
- Activate Stephen Avenue at all hours of the day, throughout the year, to build a lively urban neighbourhood.
- Ensure public safety through codes of positive social behaviour, mixed use development with “eyes on the street” and innovative security design solutions.
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Phase 1A: Craft the Vision and Roadmap
- Citizens and stakeholders were engaged to understand challenges and opportunities and define what success looks like
- A public realm study was created that provides a vision and roadmap for the future of Stephen Avenue.
Phase 1B: Activate and Experiment
- The project is moving from planning to doing by testing ideas from the roadmap
- Ideas/pilots may include governance concepts, programming, temporary street closures, short-term intersection improvements and economic development concepts
Phase 2: Conceptual Streetscape Master Plan
- The Conceptual Streetscape Master Plan will deliver a design that considers both current and future needs of the Avenue and delivers on the design intent established in the Phase 1 Public Realm Plan.
- Phase 2 funded and is anticipated to start early Summer 2022.
- Citizens and stakeholders will be engaged and asked to provide input on the draft streetscape master plan in Fall 2022.
- The final Streetscape Master Plan will be shared with the public in Spring 2023.
Phase 3: Detailed Design and Phase 4: Construction
- Funding is currently not approved for Phase 3 and Phase 4.
- An implementation strategy for how the Stephen Ave can be phased to move forward into detailed design and construction will be a key component of Phase 2. The strategy will clearly map out interdependencies with adjacent investments and funding needs for capital implementation.
What’s happening now: Activate and Experiment
The Activate and Experiment phase envisions long-term change on Stephen Avenue by testing ideas to better understand and measure the impacts of change along downtown’s main street. Through this phase we’ll be making temporary changes to the Avenue. The goal is to bring Calgarians on board throughout the process, before making any investments in a permanent redesign. The City will accomplish this by:
- Enacting change – working with downtown partners to test ideas through public space activations, design ideas, and public safety improvements
- Quantify change – measure the impacts of each idea/experiment and use the findings to help determine long-term solutions
- Communicate change – engage with Calgarians and visitors to help determine the success of these ideas and experiments
Bank of Montreal Corner – Stephen Avenue and 1 Street S.W.
We envision a greener future for Stephen Avenue. We’re testing out plantings on this corner to create a green oasis. Incorporating nature into the urban realm has a proven positive impact on citizen well-being, biodiversity, storm water retention and air quality.
Right now we’re establishing a planting area with colourful, fragrant and attractive perennials and annuals.
A new gathering place will be set up later this summer, as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
Hudson’s Block – Stephen Avenue and Centre Street
This location offers a great opportunity to test out a social seating area where citizens and tourists can take a moment of respite from their busy day, have a conversation or people-watch, all while being nestled amongst the street life of Stephen Avenue.
This new gathering place will be set up later this summer, as COVID- 19 restrictions are eased.
More exciting activations and experiments will be announced later this summer.
- The Future of Stephen Avenue Public Realm Study 290MB
- The Future of Stephen Avenue Public Realm Presentation
- Fall Insight Report
- Project design brief
- Consultation selection FAQ
- Stephen Avenue Historical Report
- Historic Downtown Calgary Walking Tour App
- Greater Downtown Plan
- Centre City Urban Design Guidelines
- Centre City Guidebook
- Access Design Standards
- Calgary Land Use Bylaw
- Calgary Streets Bylaw (20M88)
- City of Calgary Cyclist and Pedestrian Counter Data
- Pedestrian Strategy
- Calgary Downtown Retail District Strategy
- Engage Policy and Framework
- Civic District Public Realm Strategy