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February 01, 2017 7:00 AM | Anonymous member

The City of Calgary's Main Street initiative has identified 24 streets in Calgary as "Main Streets", and is looking to encourage growth and vibrancy along those streets and in the surrounding areas. The community of Richmond/Knob Hill is bordered by two such Main Streets, being 17 Avenue SW and 33 Avenue SW. The City has selected the area along the portion of 17 Avenue SW that runs from Crowchild Trail to 37 Street SW as one of the first areas to be assessed by the Main Streets group. Several Open Houses were held last year to obtain public input, and taking into account that input the Main Streets group is now proposing to create two new mixed-use land use districts for use along Main Streets, and then to rezone properties located along 17 Avenue SW to these new land use districts, and to up-zone properties in the adjacent area to allow higher density developments. 

The two new mixed-use land use districts are proposed as follows:

  1. Mixed Use – Flexible (MU-1) District
  • Intended to be located along commercial streets where a mix of different uses could be located at the street level including commercial, residential or office type uses.
  • Allows flexibility in terms of which uses are located at the street level
  • Accommodates a mix of uses within a single building or within multiple buildings throughout an area.

2.  Mixed Use – Commercial (MU-2) District

  • Intended to be located along commercial streets where commercial uses are located at grade in order to promote activity at the street level.
  • Requires that every building have commercial type uses, such as shops and restaurants, at street level.

Development supported in both of these districts would typically consist of street-oriented midrise buildings between four and six storeys in height and generally not exceeding ten storeys. The proposed districts focus regulation on the interface of the building with the street rather than on the floor area of uses. Design standards at the street level include requirements for clear glazing at eye level, maximum frontage length per use, and individual entrances for each use. Requirements include a building stepback on street facing facades for buildings that are taller than six storeys in height. On upper storeys, separation distances for windows, balconies and towers provide access to light and air. When new buildings back onto a lower scale residential property, an angular plane steps the building height down to minimize visual mass and shadowing.

The City-initiated rezoning of properties along 17 Avenue SW and adjacent areas is proposed to include the following:

  1. properties along the south side of 17 Avenue SW:
  • from 24 Street SW to 29 Street SW would generally be rezoned to MU-1 with a 23m (5 - 6 storey) height limit;
  • from 30 Street SW to 37 Street SW would generally be rezoned to MU-2 with a 26m (7 - 8 storey) height limit;

2.  properties on the remainder of the first block south of 17 Avenue SW will generally retain their existing M-C1 zoning, which has a 14m (3 - 4 storey) height limit;

3.  properties immediately south of 19 Avenue SW would generally be rezoned to R-CG with an 11m (3 storey) height limit; and

4.  properties on the north side of 17 Avenue SW from 24 Street SW to 29 Street SW would generally be rezoned to MU-1 with a 22m (5 - 6 storey) height limit, and the next properties to the north would generally be rezoned to R-CG with a 11m (3 storey) height limit.

The RKHCA Development Committee is concerned that allowing 22m - 26m tall buildings (similar to the 23m/6 storey tall Shoppers Drug Mart building in Marda Loop) along this stretch of 17 Avenue SW, and particularly along the south side, will result in a "Main Street" that is not "human scale" and is in shadow much of the year, and therefore not a place where people are likely to want to spend time year round. Rather than putting the tallest building heights right on 17 Avenue SW we would prefer to see them set further back, such as in the middle of the first block south of 17 Avenue, tapering down to 3 - 4 storeys on the south side of 17 Avenue SW. This would allow 17 Avenue SW to retain a more human scale and would allow more sunlight to reach the sidewalk on the north side of the street during the shoulder seasons. We have communicated this concern and suggestion to the City's Main Streets group, but to no avail.

The changes proposed by the City's Main Streets group are scheduled to go to the Calgary Planning Commission on February 23, to the Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development on March 8 and then to City Council for a public hearing on April 10. We encourage residents of Richmond/Knob Hill to learn more by going to calgary.ca/mainstreets and then share their views on these proposed changes with Ward 8 Councillor Even Woolley and the rest of City Council either at or in advance of the public hearing.

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