Crafting a neighbourhood – The District at Beltline
Spear Street Capital
Our client, Spear Street Capital, wanted to revitalize the former IBM Corporate Park in Calgary. 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 encourages the collision of workplaces with third spaces, as well as cultural and food uses, to create vibrancy.
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 intending to enhance urban environments by creating holistic ground-level experiences informed design ideation and the vision for the project.
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 project has attracted significant leasing interest during a depressed market, with new tenants moving in to enjoy the life-filled spaces.
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.
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