Crafting ‘The District at Beltline’ in Calgary with Lifescape
Spear Street Capital
Our client, Spear Street Capital, wanted to revitalize the former IBM Corporate Park in Calgary and create a new experientially-focused destination called, ‘The District at Beltline‘. We created street-to-street activation and incorporated new food experiences, a network of laneways, and a courtyard around three existing buildings. We crafted the site to meet the evolving neighbourhood, attract high-end tenants, and increase foot traffic beyond 9-to-5.
This suburban, office-style campus lacked a strong identity. The challenge was to create more urban vibrancy and enhance the reasons for people to come and linger, whether on foot or by bicycle, and create a destination in the Beltline. Rather than enclosing the outdoor space entirely, we developed an animated, ground-plane network of interdependent uses for inside and outside spaces that would feel comfortable year-round. This juxtaposition encouraged the collision of workplaces with third spaces, as well as cultural and food uses, to create vibrancy.
This will be a central gathering spot, a central sense of community, over and above being an amenity for the building. It just brings it more as a destination and a hub.”
VP Development, Spear Street Capital
Transforming a city block and reshaping a neighborhood’s future begins at a human scale — the urban experience thrives at the ground level and with face-to-face interaction. Ideas from our Lifescape™ studio enhanced the urban environment through holistic ground-level programming and dynamic space planning. This approach to place-making optimizes space design to foster memorable human experiences.
We took advantage of the existing bike network to understand how the space could evolve into a multi-hub destination and tap into the city’s emerging bicycle culture. This meant looking beyond the workday to encourage more evening and weekend use to fully realize the true potential of the location.
City staff became advocates of our proposal and their attention to street life helped create a relatively seamless approvals process. This sped up the overall schedule and mitigated the risks associated with late changes that could have resulted from city pushback. ‘The District at Beltline’ has attracted significant leasing interest during a depressed market, with new tenants moving in to enjoy the life-filled spaces.
By focusing on the human experience at ground-level, our Lifescape design has truly enhanced the physical fabric of The District, creating a space where people want to work, shop, play and congregate.”
We partnered with Spear Street Capital’s marketing and leasing team to drive the identity shift of the space.
The project took cues from the diversity and vibrance of the Beltline neighborhood by bringing in local operators for the market shed and food hall and programming live events year-round. This included working with street artists to create 60-foot-high murals along the sides of the buildings to attract the public to this new nexus of Calgary’s brewing, arts, and business hub.
The campus was designed as an extension of the urban grid system, with laneways and arcades crisscrossing through the buildings to enclose courtyards and indoor public spaces.
The Lifescape™ approach became a new benchmark for the city’s vision of this neighborhood’s future. What was once a challenging leasing environment attracted internationally-significant tenants, while also welcoming local small-business owners. The spaces between the buildings have become a lively—and growing—network of meeting-and-mingling spots, each element with its own characteristics and personality.
The adaptive reuse of The District not only transformed the leasing and marketability of this property, but also offered new possibilities for how Calgary’s urban spaces can be used in the future.
So far, this office redevelopment has won the Calgary NAIOP 2022 REX Award for Re-development of The Year and the City of Calgary 2022 Mayor’s Urban Design Award for Urban Architecture.
We have over 35 years of experience designing commercial mixed-use projects across Canada and internationally. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you with your commercial mixed-use project today.
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