'We just don't have the capacity': High-rise development in Sunalta raises concerns for residents

A proposed mixed-use — retail and residential — development on 17th Avenue and 14th Street S.W., known as 17 Project, has Sunalta residents split.

The city says their municipal development plan supports densification in that area

Arlington Street Investments is proposing to build a high-density, mixed-use project at the northwest corner of 17th Avenue and 14th Street S.W. (Arlington Street Investments)

A proposed mixed-use — retail and residential — development on 17th Avenue and 14th Street S.W., termed the 17 Project in city documents, has Sunalta residents split.

The city is currently collecting public input on the proposed Arlington Street Investments project, called The Sentinel, before taking it back to city council for approval. 

Some people, like long-time Sunalta resident April Choat, feel the building, which could be up to 28-storeys, will be too tall and that construction would cause traffic woes in an area that's already overwhelmed.

Sunalta resident April Choat says the proposed 17 Project development would make traffic worse in an already overburdened area. (CBC)

"Sixteenth Avenue is hugely overburdened as it is, 17th Avenue is again overburdened. Our alley, behind us, is used as a thoroughfare and we just don't have the capacity to put any more people in the area," she said.

Richard White, an urban commentator, says it's time Calgary builds up instead of out.

"Sunalta is ripe for redevelopment, it should be part of the city centre, it's got its own LRT station," he said. "The project could be an anchor for the west side of 17th Avenue."

White said although the height may be a barrier for some residents, it's a question of if building up makes sense.

"We have to break new territory," he said.

"Look at the tall buildings occurring at 8th Street. There were no tall buildings like the Royal or the Emerald or those buildings 20 years ago. Now it's commonplace, they'll build 30- or 40-storey buildings in that area. It's a natural evolution"

City of Calgary planner Juliet Pitts says the city's municipal development plan supports densification in the proposed area. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Juliet Pitts, a planner with the city, said the specs of the proposed development are bigger than what council land use and height policies allow, but said the city's municipal development plan supports densification in the area, especially because the community already has public transit infrastructure.

"Increasing density where infrastructure exists, where transit exists and allowing people to be closer to jobs and walk and bike and have those travel options within communities like this is important to Calgary's growth," she said. 

Sunalta resident Micheal Jones says he's cautiously optimistic about the development.

"It could work quite well, it is a land use so some of it's hard to tell how it would add or detract from the community at this point," he said. "First step is to find out what they actually want to do."

Sunalta resident Micheal Jones says he's optimistic the project would benefit the neighbourhood. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Ralph Bennetsen of Arlington Street Investments said they've asked people to give them their ideas in order to get as much public input as possible. 

But they can't please everyone.

Developer Ralph Bennetsen says he knows they can't please everyone in the community. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

"Certainly change is difficult for some people, change feels uncertain and uncomfortable for some people, but other people relish the change, they want to see something different in their neighbourhoods," he said.

Bennetsen added that of course traffic would be impacted during construction, but the residential tenants in the building would likely be drawn to it for it's proximity to public transit, which he feels would ultimately quell traffic in the area.


Lucie Edwardson


Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to safety on Calgary Transit. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson or reach her by email at