Car-free living in the downtown core is that much closer to becoming a reality with the groundbreaking of a major redevelopment in the East Village, says Calgary's mayor.
Construction officially began Wednesday on a project that is slated to bring two residential towers and 188,000 square feet of retail space to the block located at Fifth Avenue between Third and Fourth Street S.E.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the mixed-use model — which will build a Loblaws grocery store directly into a 500 unit condo residential hub — will finally make pedestrian living feasible in the downtown core.
"The fact that we are getting a grocery store and other big retailers to be announced here means that people can really start living without a car," he said.
"This is a really big deal."
'The perfect time' to invest
The neighbourhood redevelopment is expected to inject $500 million into the local economy.
It is a joint effort between commercial real estate giant RioCan and residential developer Embassy BOSA.
RioCan founder and CEO Edward Sonshine said many have questioned whether building a $200-million project in Calgary in the middle of a downturn is a wise business move.
But Sonshine expressed confidence that the city would rebound from its economic slump, and said the higher-than-normal availability of skilled tradespeople coupled with low interest rates makes this "the perfect time" to invest.
"The cure for low oil prices is low oil prices. They've been low for longer than anybody expected. They'll go up again," he said.
"In any event, Calgary will figure it out. They always do."