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UrbanWarrior

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Considering we have a thread for all the other hip and trendy areas in the city undergoing massive change, I figured we should have one for Stephen Avenue.

The changes ongoing on Stephen Avenue may not be structurally based as they are in the other areas, but they are still quite noticeable. Increased pedestrian traffic at all hours being the major one I noticed. I work out at the Stephen Ave Goodlife every weekday night. Getting out of the gym around midnight, there are still people around, while there weren't really a few years ago. I think bars on the Ave are also starting to stay open later on weeknights. The new lighting on the Lancaster Building thanks to Simons (my new favourite store) is also freakin awesome. The new retail in the Lancaster and Hudsons Bay buildings has also breathed a fair amount of vitality into those stretches, while the large new "locally sourced" pub under construction inside the ground floor of two historic buildings near Mcdonalds should also help quite a bit.

I'm really looking forward to hearing more about the future redevelopment of the street itself too, with new trees, upgraded tree pots underground, new paving stones, new furniture and street lamps, and whatever else. Stephen Ave has so much potential to be a renown street outside of Alberta.


Aaaand go!
 

CBBarnett

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I think it will be fascinating to see how Stephen Ave transitions with the redevelopment of neighbourhoods all around with more residents. Stephen Ave, 1st Street and maybe 7th Street or Centre Street are the only "pleasant" (a term I am using fairly generally here) pedestrian corridors in an otherwise car-oriented and inhospitable downtown. The fringes (West End, Eau Claire, Chinatown, East Village) are all much better and have added many people/units over the past decade. If that trend continues, does that drive a noticeable increase in foot traffic down these corridors? Or is it more likely that most pedestrian activity will remain isolated along the fringes? Perhaps new retail clusters in East Village & Eau Claire will begin to take over Stephen Avenue's role in the coming decades especially with major trip generators like the grocery stores and movie theatres planned nearby.

Uses like the Good Life at 1st, the mixture of retail, bars, restaurants, and the Core mall all help pull activity to Stephen. The collapse of the downtown big-ticket oil-money lunch crowd is starting to turn over more restaurants that relied on wide-open expense accounts, which is freeing up opportunities for more retail to move in that caters to a more diverse and 24/7 customer base, groups who have for a decade been crowded out by high-end places in the Core. With that said, the loss of so many high-paying jobs in the area can act as a drag for all, not just the high-end. Calgary's retail main streets remaining very highly priced given comparable foot traffic numbers seen in other Canadian cities, which has a negative effect on retail diversity/sustainability.

It has been, and will always be, an interesting street to watch as it shifts from being one thing to another. Imagine if the Stephen Ave subway ever comes to fruition how that would shake things up :)
 

JonnyCanuck

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I live in the area and I walk down Stephen Ave 2-3 times per week in the evening. I've also noticed more pedestrian traffic. I attribute it to the increased population in the Beltline (apartments & condos).
With that it is surprising that (5) restaurants along Stephen Ave have closed their doors in the last year ... Belvedere, Divino, Mango Shiva, Catch & Double Zero. Only Mango Shiva (location of the brew pub) and possibly Belvedere look like they are being replaced with something.
Stephen Ave has much potential. Lots of eating establishments & pubs but no real night clubs and virtually no live music venues in the 1st SE to 4 St SW stretch which is the real core.
 

CBBarnett

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I live in the area and I walk down Stephen Ave 2-3 times per week in the evening. I've also noticed more pedestrian traffic. I attribute it to the increased population in the Beltline (apartments & condos).
With that it is surprising that (5) restaurants along Stephen Ave have closed their doors in the last year ... Belvedere, Divino, Mango Shiva, Catch & Double Zero. Only Mango Shiva (location of the brew pub) and possibly Belvedere look like they are being replaced with something.
Stephen Ave has much potential. Lots of eating establishments & pubs but no real night clubs and virtually no live music venues in the 1st SE to 4 St SW stretch which is the real core.
As I mentioned briefly in my post, rents are still insane on Stephen, especially given the amount of foot traffic. Essentially many restaurant business models on big-ticket oil and gas spenders to pay their huge rents through huge, expensive bills. That world has dramatically shifted and has taken many old establishments with it as the margins disappeared. Expect more closures to come on Stephen and throughout the inner city.

High rents also helped push out most music venues elsewhere over the past decades, which is likely part of the reason for the clubs/venues, larger-format bars all along 10th Avenue developing over a similar timeframe.
 

MichaelS

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I live in the area and I walk down Stephen Ave 2-3 times per week in the evening. I've also noticed more pedestrian traffic. I attribute it to the increased population in the Beltline (apartments & condos).
With that it is surprising that (5) restaurants along Stephen Ave have closed their doors in the last year ... Belvedere, Divino, Mango Shiva, Catch & Double Zero. Only Mango Shiva (location of the brew pub) and possibly Belvedere look like they are being replaced with something.
Stephen Ave has much potential. Lots of eating establishments & pubs but no real night clubs and virtually no live music venues in the 1st SE to 4 St SW stretch which is the real core.
Flames Central (or what it is called now)?
 

UrbanWarrior

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I think it will be fascinating to see how Stephen Ave transitions with the redevelopment of neighbourhoods all around with more residents. Stephen Ave, 1st Street and maybe 7th Street or Centre Street are the only "pleasant" (a term I am using fairly generally here) pedestrian corridors in an otherwise car-oriented and inhospitable downtown. The fringes (West End, Eau Claire, Chinatown, East Village) are all much better and have added many people/units over the past decade. If that trend continues, does that drive a noticeable increase in foot traffic down these corridors? Or is it more likely that most pedestrian activity will remain isolated along the fringes? Perhaps new retail clusters in East Village & Eau Claire will begin to take over Stephen Avenue's role in the coming decades especially with major trip generators like the grocery stores and movie theatres planned nearby.

Uses like the Good Life at 1st, the mixture of retail, bars, restaurants, and the Core mall all help pull activity to Stephen. The collapse of the downtown big-ticket oil-money lunch crowd is starting to turn over more restaurants that relied on wide-open expense accounts, which is freeing up opportunities for more retail to move in that caters to a more diverse and 24/7 customer base, groups who have for a decade been crowded out by high-end places in the Core. With that said, the loss of so many high-paying jobs in the area can act as a drag for all, not just the high-end. Calgary's retail main streets remaining very highly priced given comparable foot traffic numbers seen in other Canadian cities, which has a negative effect on retail diversity/sustainability.

It has been, and will always be, an interesting street to watch as it shifts from being one thing to another. Imagine if the Stephen Ave subway ever comes to fruition how that would shake things up :)

I actually find 3rd Street SW to be a very pleasant street to walk on. In fact, maybe the most pleasant out of all those you mentioned. In regard to Stephen Ave, I'd love to see some high quality pavers laid down and some nice street furniture. However, if the 8th Avenue Subway is going to go ahead - which really it's a matter of when, not if - the city should probably wait to redo Stephen Ave, rather than waste money in the short term. Regardless, the city needs to start finding ways to make Stephen Ave a true destination, rather than resting on the laurels of the street's retail successes, as that may not last forever.
 

JonnyCanuck

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It is back to being called The Palace. Yes they do have scheduled concerts and other venues where you have to purchase tickets. However I was thinking more of a bar where you can drop in every Thur/Fri/Sat, and know your are going to hear some live music.
 

CBBarnett

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It is back to being called The Palace. Yes they do have scheduled concerts and other venues where you have to purchase tickets. However I was thinking more of a bar where you can drop in every Thur/Fri/Sat, and know your are going to hear some live music.

Here's an incomplete -but reasonably accurate - list of venues nearby:
Palomino (7 Ave & Centre St), Nite Owl + Hifi (10 Ave & 1 St), Cafe Koi (11 Ave & 1 St). All play shows regularly and of the genres that really can contribute to a scene or music cluster
Unicorn (Stephen & 2 St) basement does the occasional show and funk jam night, but I think it would be generous to consider it a major music venue as its lots of cover bands and early 2000s-style generic rock*. If they still do the funk jam, it is highly underrated and people should check it out.
Dickens (9 Ave & 9 St) is too far from the rest of Stephen Ave activity, although is a good venue & well attended by some genre fans (heavier rock crowd typically).
The Grand (6 Ave & 1 St) / Arts Commons (Stephen & Macleod) are more dramatic arts focused
National Music Centre (9 Ave & 4 St SE) remains on the wrong side of the Municipal Building to contribute to Stephen's scene - as well as their relatively new age hasn't yet proven to be programmed to have regular shows that can really drive a "scene", despite great venue spaces.

Apart from the Palace, there is nothing.

On a related note on why Stephen Ave - and Calgary in general - has so few real music and arts spaces, it really can't be emphasized enough the cataclysmic impact 50 years of boomtown downtown oil and gas office demand has had on our theatre, arts and music scenes. Coupled with decades inner city depopulation in the late 20th century, the dispersion of student populations to the burbs rather than the core and the near-total erasing of old, cheap buildings in the city, the downtown office boom all but doomed music scene from developing a major cluster there.

To survive decades of insane redevelopment pressures and escalating rents, any music venues either institutionalised (Arts Central) or were forced to move. Calgary's problems were exacerbated by when the boom occurred;we were small with a tiny stock of old venue-friendly buildings right before the boom hit: in the auto/single-use crazy era of suburbanization. Its surprising any of our old buildings survived at all.

While generally a good thing for Calgary's development, oils booms have their drawbacks. Our venue/cultural space deficit is one of them. Not to mention the crowding out role the oil industry played against the artistic types that help bolster a music scene in the first place (higher rents everywhere in a typically low-paying profession makes it difficult, coupled with decades of readily available high-paying jobs to entice young people away from their passions and towards a mortgage and two kids).

* My opinion of course, as a local music fan in their late-2os with a persuasion to more modern sounds.
 

googspecial

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Been thinking lately about what an activated alleyway in Calgary could look like. I know this isn't a new idea - especially among people in this forum - but I really think this is an initiative the city should pursue. Maybe as a way to re-brand the money spent by them on arts or something. Imagine this space filled with graffiti art. Close it to vehicles between 4pm and 4am, and host a beer gardens back here for the summer months.

On a similar note, this alleyway in Kensington could also get the same treatment. Kind of sad that there is covered graffiti on other buildings in this alley.
 

Surrealplaces

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Calgary's slowly moving into that direction.... A group from the UofC have a project involving re-doing alleyways.


Some examples of alleyways I saw in Sydney and Melbourne.
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googspecial

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That's great. That alleyway was actually what I was thinking would be the next best one. Those examples from Aus are for sure what I was thinking - particularly with businesses that have entrances or windows to the alleyway. There could be patios as an alternative to sitting Stephen Ave side for some restos or cafes.
 

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