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Area could have naturally evolved if they had let it. Tough to get people to move into an area surrounded by surface parking lots and not amenities.
Agreed, but it could've also resulted in stronger NIMBYism today. Right now the area is set up for prime high-density development, just like East Village. I'm not sure that would've been possible if the area was still similar to something like Sunnyside. It just sucks we have to live through a sea of parking lots but the next generation will have the privilege of calling this area an Entertainment district.
 
Agreed, but it could've also resulted in stronger NIMBYism today. Right now the area is set up for prime high-density development, just like East Village. I'm not sure that would've been possible if the area was still similar to something like Sunnyside. It just sucks we have to live through a sea of parking lots but the next generation will have the privilege of calling this area an Entertainment district.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as the saying goes. Clearcutting an existing neighbourhood for less resistance to build a bigger, better and purely hypothetical neighbourhood in the future is not a route with many historical successes in city building.

I really hope you are right about the entertainment district. Perhaps this time is different - Calgary's a bigger place, economics of apartments and high density are better, urban living and entertainment remains popular etc. Perhaps the arena and convention centre's design are attractive enough to over come the difficulty inherent in their building types to integrate to the community. Perhaps CMLC's involvement and the public subsidy into event spaces in the areas will finally be enough to push stagnant stakeholders to actually doing something with the hectares of lands they have slowly accumulated in the last decades. Perhaps all this triggers a renewed investment in the area and towers start popping up.

My skepticism is we have heard all this before - we literally have an entertainment district already: the functions, activities and events with "economic spin-offs" all already happen in Victoria Park. It hasn't led to much over the 100+ years of Stampede and exhibition events and 40+ years of 18,000 people showing up for concerts and games a few times a week. Unfortunately, if anything, the historic evidence of Victoria Park actually points the opposite way - being adjacent to an entertainment district appears to restrict, distort and prevent development investment in an area not the other way around.

This might not hold true in entertainment districts everywhere. But in Victoria Park's case the key stakeholders in the Stampede, CSEC and the city have been at best incapable or indifferent to redevelopment occurring, at worst openly hostile to redevelopment and reinvestment in the area (which is why we ended up with parking lots in the first place, replacing a functioning neighbourhood). Once the arena is built and the convention centre is finished, the area will still have the same surface parking crater as it has today - the Saddledome will be gone and a new surface parking lot will appear. Hopefully we can start nibbling away at the parking sea in other areas as the Stampede isn't interested in resolving it.

Related to all this, the development we have seen hasn't been stellar from a design or community integration point of view (BLVD and Keynote being the best of the bunch). The Guardian Towers / Arriva block is some of the worst high-density urban integration around, the Cidex development will take the crown in the area if it's built. Very tall towers are hard enough to integrate anywhere, let alone in a sea of uncoordinated parking lots and little realized vision of what the area is working itself toward becoming. This poor integration is partially an outcome of having nothing to integrate with - had the neighbourhood still existed I would bet the integration quality/effort would be much higher, like it is in Kensington, Mission or other Victoria Park contemporaries that weren't destroyed.

History isn't necessarily a predictor of future events - things change. I have confidence that the city's tune has changed on urban development. CMLC's involvement should be a big plus. I hope that the renewed focus on City Centre and Rivers district planning will help mitigate future towers design issues (although Cidex's podium happened during this same period, so apparently our processes aren't as robust as I am imagining).

But as for the Stampede and CSEC? Nothing they have said or done throughout this multi-decade history of the Victoria Park / entertainment district saga indicates much interest in changing approaches in a material way. The one lever the public has for leverage - ~$750M+ public subsidy (Arena + exhibition centre) in return for public amenity & quality design - has been pulled already for this generation of event facilities. Time will tell if it was enough to trigger the neighbourhood renewal and placemaking that was hoped for, but early indications are far from a slam-dunk.

For now I just can't see a path to a successful, vibrant entertainment district emerging in a lifetime if two of the three key stakeholders aren't really interested in it. This is the real issue we never solved with all this effort, discourse and subsidy. The area's success as a neighbourhood or entertainment district will forever be held back if the majority stakeholders are more interested in running parking empires and one-off events than redevelopment. Unlike elsewhere in the city and in most other industries with development interests/implications, we are subsidizing the Stampede and CSEC to remain the way they are, rather than force a change either but subsidizing the right things or allowing more market forces to push them to intensify their land.

With that all said - I really and truly hope I am wrong and you are right. I can't wait for a quality neighbourhood to emerge from the parking wasteland!
 
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The only identity Victoria Park has at the moment is that it is an egress point for DT and the Beltine. They can brand all they want but the fact remains that the walk from downtown or the western part of the Beltline through Victoria Park is probably the worst public realm experience in the inner city. Wide one-way roads with timed lights that intersect at all the major entrance points to the neighbourhood, narrow cluttered sidewalks that haven't had any attention paid to them in decades, those ugly steel overhead signals, underpasses that stink of piss. The list goes on. If they don't deal with the fundamental issues that are holding back the eastern portion of the Beltline I struggle to see the area being much different than it is now 10 years from now.
 

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