Calgary – The Community City

After being born and raised in Calgary and feeling like I had experienced all there was, I knew that there was more to life than this little bubble that so many of my friends lived in, so I ventured west to Vancouver in 2010 and experienced something I had never experienced before and what I was longing for, and that was an urban living lifestyle; I was surrounded by people, style, food, community and culture. I worked for Miss World Canada as their business developer and I ran a business consulting company and soon grew tired of the rat race for acquiring new business.

I missed the comfort of home but loved the mountains that were only 20 minutes away. I missed my family and friends but I loved the beaches that were minutes away. I loved the food, sushi, night life and the diverse communities that Vancouver had so I was torn about heading back home but I made a conscious decision to return to Calgary at the end of 2014. And what a cold long winter that was. I was reluctant before I making the move back as I thought I was coming back to the same old, same old. And when I returned, I couldn’t believe how much things had changed. The downtown skyline had transformed dramatically, and a year later, even though Calgary is experiencing an ‘economic slump’, it is still on the up and up and the evidence around the city shows. If you drive over the 4th street bridge it’s like a war of the cranes; new buildings are being built all over each quadrant and is still thriving. According to Calgary’s population doubled in the last 30 years and will double again in the next 30 making Calgary’s population a whopping 2.4 million! I don’t even know where else Calgary could even build. I remember Midnapore being Calgary’s city limit and I don’t have a crystal ball but Okotoks and Cochrane may soon be just a part of Calgary.

I remember back in the millenia days, Calgary was (and still is) a host to many global businesses flying in to do business with us, but to entertain them or show them our culture was slim pickings unless it was during Stampede so the only other options were the Calgary Tower, 8th Avenue and 17th Avenue and if you travelled much you know it wasn’t a big deal. I must say that Calgary has really stepped up from being more than just a small cowboy town. Calgary is flourishing and is so diversified with each community stepping up their ‘A’ game, grooming itself through communities like Marda Loop, 17th Ave, Bridgeland and of course what the city’s buzz is all about with the current project, managed by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), East VillageSay whaaaaat? In 1906, Calgary had a boom and East Village was a vibrant community, with a mix of residential, commercial, service, institutional and industrial life. In 1941, the area fell into decline, and the city declared East Village to be a “skid row”. Sadly, in 1960, East Village was demolitioned and the area was left as a ghost town ever since I can remember and if you’re a Baby Boomer or Gen X then you can attest to that area not being a desirable one to even walk or drive through.

In 2009 the CMLC stepped in and developed a 25 year master plan to revitalize East Village. Since then, it has become a vibrant, blossoming neighborhood full of history meets future, culture and dynamic community. The award-winning Riverwalk has brought life back to area filling it’s parks and streetscapes with the energy that Calgarians have had pent up. It is a safe and soon to be populated area where home meets work and play, where public art comes to life and the streets are buzzing with events, food trucks, music and zest! One of the many discussion that lies within this neighbourhood is that it is adjacent to the Calgary Drop-In Centre, which I don’t see as being a problem at all. The DI has always stood for community and works with the community for the safest and most inclusive outcomes. The reason why the homeless go there is because of DIs very mission statement: “To prevent homelessness where possible, offer care and shelter when needed, and provide opportunities for people to rehabilitate and rebuild their lives.” Even if the DI was relocated, the homeless will likely congregate in East Village anyways because of the parks, the Library, plenty of people, etc. So with that being said, the DI is not relocating and has always had a variety of services to enrich the lives of all that come through their doors from shelter, counselling, nutrition, to employment services, computer learning programs, seniors program and much more. I think this collision between both communities will teach Calgarians how to coexist with the homeless instead of pushing them away, or trying to ignore them. The world is compassionate and Calgary is bringing it to the forefront in style and grace. It’s not only about East Village, it is the connection that EV will bring helping communities come together in unity and harmony. Included in the mix of live, work and play, education is a big part of the community with a new Central Library, the National Music Centre, and the first primary education, residential mixed-use site – the Booth Centre. With all that is happening it makes me thrilled and so proud to be a Canadian living in Calgary and a candidate running to be Calgary’s East Village Ambassador. Oh, and stay tuned for the West Village development coming very soon…

Photo credit: Jennifer Peters

Location: Simmons Building

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