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Breaking ground downtown: A new Canadian trend?

By DJ Kelly November 20, 2007

In an earlier post I talked about Vancouver’s newly announced $71 million plans to update their downtown east side into an arts campus with state of the art performance spaces and the like.

I meant to mention this at the time, but it just so happens that one day earlier Montreal made a similar $120 million announcement. This time the announcement is all bout revamping their city’s arts district – a one square kilometre area that will be redubbed Le Quartier des Spectacles. The space will include the Place des Arts and be home to almost every festival Montreal is famous for including Just for Laughs and the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

Wow. Can you imagine having something like that in your city? The area is almost guaranteed to become the heartbeat of the city. With buskers, acts and stage shows ongoing there will always be something to see in that area of town. Plus with the influx of people visiting you know the street level shops will be bustling, restaurants will be busy and everyone in Montreal and around the world will be talking about that spot. Certainly that’s Montreal’s vision. (Heck, the “Lighting Plan” alone is worthy of the world’s attention.)

Apparently the people behind Evergreen in Toronto were listening at the same time too because earlier today they announced a $55 million project to redesign the city’s old Don Valley Brick Works into a world-class green space, complete with heritage buildings and arts programs. The new Evergreen Brick Works will be an urban space unlike anything seen in any other city.

These three projects are the kind of visionary thinking we need to see more of in Canada. Especially Calgary.

So, I reiterate my impatience to see more movement on the Athabasca University, Calgary Board of Education, SAIT Polytechnic, University of Calgary, and University of Lethbridge sponsored Urban Campus Initiative being proposed for Calgary’s own downtown east side. It’s going to take a lot of work to get this project going, but the time is now – before the boom slows to the point the project stalls.

Certainly this is what the world is looking for, and we had best provide it if we want to consider ourselves world-class.

I don’t think $38 million invested in Calgary’s park system is going to do it. (Even though it is a much deserved way to honour our veterans.)