Calgary

Calgary's new Plus 15 will be an arc of technicolor lights

Calgary's expansive network of skywalks is about to get a little bit more connected, with the addition of a unique new Plus 15 crossing.

The new walkway is being built by a private company, because it doesn't cross public land

The Plus-15 will connect Penn West Plaza and Gulf Canada square. (Morguard and Abugov Kaspar Architecture)

Calgary's expansive network of skywalks is about to get a little bit more connected, with the addition of a new and unique Plus 15 crossing.

The curving, LED-illuminated walkway will connect Penn West Plaza and Gulf Canada Square along Ninth Avenue S.W.

"The bridge comes off of the north side of the west edge of Penn West Plaza … it curves around what's currently the entryway to the Gulf Canada parkade, the circular entryway. And then it ends up on the north side of the east edge of Gulf Canada Square," said Randy Borisenko, the regional general manager of real estate company Morguard.

The privately owned company initiated the $7-million project when it took over Penn West Plaza in 2012. The original design was created by Abugov Kaspar Architects.

The privately owned walkway doesn't cross a public street. (Morguard and Abugov Kaspar Architecture)

"When we saw the plans, we went, 'wow, that looks great! We wouldn't change anything,'" he said.

Borisenko described the walkway as "slightly different" from most Plus 15s, as the eventual goal for the large space is to host events inside it.

One wall will be solid, allowing for public art displays, and the other will be covered by a series of illuminated, multicoloured LED panels.

Above the walkway will be a tall mast with radial cables running down to the walkway.

"Night views will be spectacular," he said.

Calgary's Plus 15 network is the largest of its kind in the world. The first connection opened to the public in 1970.

Calgary's Plus 15 Network is the largest of its kind in the world. (CalgaryPlus15/Google Maps)

The network was given its name, because the walkways are about 15 feet above the ground.

The connected buildings were even the focus of a Calgary-shot indie movie in 2000, Waydowntown.

On Tuesday, The Calgary Eyeopener's Unconventional panel discussed the network, and its impact on the city.

Engineer Ravin Moorthy said the enclosed paths were created in the 1970s when workers at oil companies had to share data back and forth — back when data was actual sheets of paper that were vulnerable to Calgary's weather.

But, he said he's not a fan of the Plus 15 system. 

"We have a beautiful city, we have a beautiful outdoors … instead what we've done … is tell people to stay off the streets, totally give up on commerce, just to walk inside," he said. 

But Borisenko disagrees.

"To me, we need Plus 15s wherever we can get them. The more interconnected we can keep our downtown core, I think the better," he said.

"When the weather's cooperative, it's wonderful to get outside and wander around, but unfortunately as we know, that doesn't happen all the time."

Borisenko said the goal is to have the walkway open by December 2018.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener