The East Village highlight reel for 2016 is truly unforgettable – it includes drama and art, green space and great architecture. From marking major milestones to celebrating daily life, EV revelled in a literal and figurative groundbreaking year. Today, East Village is burgeoning with places to stay, places to play, and places to indulge in a little pampering. Gardens bloom, music soars, and new art greets neighbours and visitors. With each tick of the to-do list, Calgary’s blossoming urban village becomes ever more neighbourly and ever more grown up.
The opening of Merle Norman in March of this year was a big first for East Village. The inaugural retailer to open up shop in the base of the FIRST building, the cosmetics and nails studio led a very welcome wave of new shops and services into the neighbourhood. Nine new retailers – including hair salons, gift shops, jewellers and dental offices – flung their EV doors wide open in 2016.
Five hundred and forty new neighbours were welcomed into their well-appointed digs when Pulse – Evolution’s second condo tower – opened in July. These new villagers found themselves living in the midst of an increasingly vibrant neighbourhood surrounded by new shops and eateries. They’re just steps away from C-Square, EV’s newest plaza along the LRT line, and from the Crossroads Community Garden and Playground near Fort Calgary. Since opening in April, the EV community garden has become a neighbourhood meeting place where long-time residents and newcomers alike bond over blooms and beets. The playground has become a favourite for inner-city families seeking a space that encourages creativity and discovery.
St. Patrick’s Island has been a beloved backyard playground for East Villagers and a favourite destination for all Calgarians since reopening last year after a mindful and spectacular rejuvenation. The recognition of SPI’s terrific design went national in November when it was crowned 2016’s Great Public Space by the Canadian Institute of Planners. The mix of urban oasis and natural wilderness made the island an ideal setting for events like Shakespeare by the Bow’s Hamlet: A Ghost Story, which was presented this July as a slightly eerie walking play. Performed at sunset, of course.
Along RiverWalk, the third temporary installment of CMLC’s Art in the Public Realm program now adorns bridge abutments and outbuildings. Entitled Window to the Wild, the hyper-real (and surreal) depictions of nature by Curtis Van Charles Sorensen will make you think you are bushwhacking through a fantastical Alberta backcountry, instead of strolling along an urban river pathway.
East Village continues to dig down and rise up. The celebration of the East Village Experience Centre’s fourth anniversary in March jump-started a construction season that was chock-full of official groundbreaking and down-to-business construction starts. The shovels were kept busy all year long; both the highly-anticipated 5th & THIRD Shopping Centre (to include EV’s full-service Loblaws City Market) and Alt Hotel by Le Germain (EV’s second new hotel) broke ground in 2016.
Verve began construction in June, making it the first condo tower to be built along The Riff pedestrian street. The contemporary and spacious mixed-use condominium will be perfect for those who would rather zig than zag.
Restoration of one of EV’s oldest hotels, the St. Louis, was completed in the summer becoming the new home of the CMLC offices and a stylish venue for community events. Another of EV’s venerable old hotels – the King Eddy – reopened this summer as part of Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre. Close to 6,000 curious music lovers passed through the architecturally-stunning building on the Canada Day grand opening.
Guests at the newly opened Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites Calgary Downtown, just a block away on 7th Ave and 4th St SE, have front row seats for all the action.
Ongoing construction of Calgary’s New Central Library continues to quicken the pulse of engineering aficionados and book lovers alike. When the library’s exterior cladding – a curtain wall of nearly 500 hexagonal glass panels – started to go up in the fall, NCL’s iconic style became more and more recognizable. The amazing stories of NCL’s construction will keep us on our toes until we can check out some books in 2018.
With so many milestones in just 12 short months, 2016 feels like the year in which East Village truly came of age. Until 2017, of course.