Is the East Village Redevelopment Socially Inclusive?

JK |

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 East Village Website [1], The Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Center with The Bow towering behind [2]


The eighth installment in our Facelift series, exploring the new face of our city.


mC:t    2015.07.23    


Innovation, Revitalization, Urban Village, and World-Class Style are just some of the buzzwords surrounding the current redevelopment of Calgary’s East Village.


Coming to life in 2005, the redevelopment of the 49 acres between Fort Calgary and the downtown core could be one of the city’s largest urban facelifts to date. Managed by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), with the help of the British Architecture firm Broadway Malyan, this urban “rejuvenation” has the potential to change the way we experience the city in which we live.


But what exactly is this newly developed “East Village Experience” that has captivated so many?


Well on a beautiful summer afternoon I decided to head down to the East Village and see for myself:


Entering the East Village from the RiverWalk one cannot help but to be impressed by the beautiful pathway system. The pathway winds along the Bow River and is lined with glass-fronted outlooks, sleek wooden benches and extensive landscaping. However, it not long before I am first struck by the unique dichotomy of the area…


There sitting along the pathway, a family of four has stopped for a picnic next to the river. While the parents sit with the bikes and attend to lunch the two children chase each other, ducking in and out of the benches. However, not ten feet away a man of stark contrast also engages in the space. Sleeping on the bench nearby the man appears to be homeless. His tattered clothing and weathered knapsack seem to tell the stories of life on the streets. The man makes no note of the family and nor do they of him.


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 Image of the East Village RiverWalk [3]


It is in this difference that we see one of the major contrasts of the East Village:

The revitalized concept for the new “urban village” and the reality of the area’s inclusion of the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and other various infrastructures for Calgary’s homeless population. And it is in this contrast which brings to question:


Is the East Village redevelopment socially inclusive?


In order to answer this question it is first important to understand the meaning of social inclusion and the implications it can have within a community.

“A socially inclusive society can be defined as one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live in dignity.” [4]


It was earlier this week in an interview with Deeter Schurig, project manager for cSPACE King Edward, when the level of social inclusiveness of the East Village was first brought into question. When asked about the revitalization of the East Village, Deeter noted that revitalization projects often result in impacting those who are marginalized. He continued to explain that supporting social needs is a factor that must be built into a redevelopment plan, however it is important that these services do not become tailored to the affluent, therefore becoming out of reach to many. In this article’s examination of the East Village these “needs” will be divided and examined according to housing, food and public space.



In reference to the need for housing one could argue that the East Village redevelopment plan is currently not inclusive.


When I inquired at the EV Experience & Sales Centre if there are any plans to include new subsidized or low-income living arrangements within the redevelopment, the reply indicated that “there are no current plans to do so.” This means that the $200 000 – $235 000 “affordable” price tag on the N3 condos by KnightsBridge leave them out of reach for many. These units are approximately half the the square feet of Embassy BOSA’s Evolution condos and three-quarters the size of Fram + Slokker’s First and Verve condos, therefore indicating them to be the most “affordable” option so far. Despite it currently not having plans to provide more inclusive housing options, this does not mean that this could not change overtime.


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Renderings of the N3 [5], Evolution [6] and Verve [7] condos 


In terms of addressing the need for food the current redevelopment plan for the East Village can be considered semi-inclusive.


With the inclusion of a Loblaws grocery store in the redevelopment, this helps to provide a relatively “affordable” grocery option to the community. This addition to the area will help to address the food needs for a variety of demographics. However, in contrast to this more affordable option, built-in to the adaptive reuse of the Historical Simmons Building include the dining options: Charbar, Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. Although these establishments create a culinary destination with their quality foods and beverages, the menu prices could leave them out of reach to many of the low income individuals living in the area. One can only hope that within the redevelopment there are plans to also address the dining needs of these individuals, therefore making the food options more inclusive.


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 Rendering of the proposed design for Loblaws [8], Current photograph of the renovated Simmons Building [9]

Public Space:

When considering the need of public space in an urban setting, what the East Village is providing can be considered inclusive, however this inclusiveness may suffer as a result of the desired “image” for the area.


One of the “needs” that East Village provides on many scales is the inclusion of public space. These include such spaces as the RiverWalkSt. Patrick’s Island (W Architecture and Civitas), the new Central Library (Snøhetta + DIALOG) and urban squares such as CSquare, Crossroads (Moriyama & Teshima and Stantec Consulting), and 5th Street Square. These are just a few of the spaces designed into the redevelopment that have the potential to be enjoyed by all. It is in these spaces where one can see the level of inclusiveness as described by the family and the homeless man. Without an economic burden to the user these spaces have the ability to be used by all. In addition to this, it seems that open space planning of these designs allow for individuals with different backgrounds to come and feel comfortable using the spaces for their own needs.


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Renderings of St. Patrick’s Island [10], CSquare [11] and the Central Library [12]


Within theses spaces there is also the added benefit of increased safety to all that use them. The increased level of safety in the area comes from an increased population density in addition to various lighting techniques to help brighten up the streets. Some of these particular projects can be read about in last week’s article Are you Afraid of the Dark?


Although these spaces appear to be of a safe and inclusive nature, this may not have been the case when the East Village decided to close their newly installed pubic self-cleaning toilets and remove some of the RiverWalk benches due to “inappropriate behavior.” Despite the appeared inclusive nature, the result of their use may not have met the desired “image” for the East Village. The closure and removal of these public amenities is a result of a conflict between what the East Village intended for the area and the reality of the situation. If not intended for shelter and/or sleep, but if this is the result, perhaps that is an indication that within the community some needs are not being met. Therefore, it is clearly time to come up with a design solution to try and meet these needs in a innovative and inclusive way.


The redevelopment of the East Village has the ability to change the way we look at our city for better or worse. In engaging with these demographic differences there is a challenge present, but it is in this engagement where innovative solutions can be found and where we as a city can grow together and not apart.


Is it possible to design to a new demographic in the East Village while not marginalizing the current one? How do we ensure the redevelopment is socially inclusive, or is this even possible?


If you have any thoughts on the topic we would love to hear from you. You can let us know in the comments section, on our Facebook page or Twitter handle @makecalgarytalk.


Next: Art Program Fighting Back Against Vandalism 
Previous: Something Old, Something New…Something Reused?


[1] “Ease Village Experience: Welcome to Calgary’s Urban Village”. East Village. July 20, 2015.
[2] Photo taken by author
[3]  “Jack & Jean Leslie RiverWalk”. East Village. July 20, 2015.
[4] “Socially Inclusive”. Victorian Government of Health Information. July 15, 2015.
[5] “N3″. East Village. July 20, 2015.
[6]  “Evolution”. East Village. July 20, 2015.
[7] “Verve”. East Village. July 20, 2015.
[8] “Loblaws”. East Village. July 20, 2015.
[9]  Photo taken by author
[10] “Explore East Village: Area Guide”. Ease Village. July 20, 2015.
[11] “Explore East Village: Area Guide”. Ease Village. July 20, 2015.
[12]  “New Central Library”. CMLC. July 20, 2015.



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