Calgary

How to transform 7th Avenue downtown Calgary from 'transit ghetto' to vibrant streetscape

It may sound counterintuitive, but an urban strategist and blogger says the core would be more “animated” if the city culled its plazas and parks along the east-west route of the C-Train line.

Urban strategist and blogger Richard White says city needs to cull public spaces

A Calgary urban strategist and blogger says fewer public spaces could be key to making downtown Calgary more vibrant. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

It may sound counterintuitive, but a Calgary urban strategist says the downtown core would be much more "animated" if the city culled its public spaces along the east-west route of the C-Train line.

"One of the interesting things about Seventh Avenue is there's a park or a plaza on about every second block, but they're empty all the time," Richard White told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.

"In some ways having less public spaces is better than more public spaces because then people do gravitate to the same place. They mingle and it creates that animation."

'Cluttered' streetscape

In a recent blog, White highlighted some of the other issues plaguing the street.

Richard White blogs about urban design issues in Calgary. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

"Though the new LRT stations are a big improvement, they are very cluttered with pillars, benches and ticket machines positioned in a manner that not only negatively impacts pedestrian movement but also exiting and boarding the train," he wrote.

White is particularly critical of a piece of public art, shaped like a ball, planted in the middle of the sidewalk.

"Putting a heat ball thingy in the middle of the sidewalk was just a dumb idea."

'Transit ghetto'

Many downtown office buildings treat Stephen Avenue as their front door and have literally turned their back on the C-Train line.

"Even the new Holt Renfrew has a very poor entrance onto Seventh Avenue," he said.

"It's not only a transit ghetto but an office ghetto."

Putting this ball-shaped piece of public art in the middle of the sidewalk on 7th Avenue 'was just a dumb idea,' wrote Richard White in a recent blog. (Everyday Tourist)

There are also no galleries, bookstores or shops fronting Seventh Avenue to attract browsing pedestrians and very few cafes, restaurants and patios.

"You know, coffee shops that normally would be open on the weekends and evenings are all closed and that's the biggest sign that something is wrong."


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

now