A Bold Path Forward: A Cultural and Entertainment District for Calgary




Since before Calgary existed, the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers was a meeting place. A place where people for thousands of years have lived, loved and thrived. The confluence has historically been the heart of this place, and has great potential to once again be the gathering place for our city. The Rivers District, (which includes the East Village, Victoria Park, and the eastern parts of Downtown), can become the heart of our entertainment and cultural lives - a place were Calgarians and visitors can live, work and play. We’ve done a lot to get to this place, but there is so much more we can do!

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (“CMLC”), a wholly owned subsidiary of the City, has done an amazing job in redeveloping the East Village over the past 10 years. CMLC recently started work on the next stage of development in the Rivers District by initiating the master planning process for Victoria Park. I am very proud to have served on the Board of Directors of CMLC over the last 7 years as your Mayor and I have worked closely with CMLC’s talented team to help bring the East Village vision into reality. Together we’ve built a great new community, restored and repurposed historic buildings like the St. Louis Hotel, created wonderful parks and amenities like St. Patrick’s Island and the Riverwalk, and supported initiatives like the new National Music Centre and our new Central Library.

We now have an amazing opportunity to create a truly dynamic entertainment and cultural district in the east end of our downtown. By building on the existing amenities in the East Village, we can create a major cultural and economic hub for Calgary.


I propose that we work together with partner organizations, including Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (“CSEC”), Arts Commons, the Calgary Stampede, other orders of government and the private sector to develop funding solutions for key projects that will have an enormous social and economic impact for our city. This will require significant investment over many years, but it's important to start with the end goal in mind, and we need many different investments to work together.

 These projects include:

  • An expanded BMO Centre - Located at the Stampede Grounds, an expanded BMO Centre will draw larger trade shows and conventions to our downtown. We should move ahead quickly with the other orders of government on the expansion of Hall F and work with the Calgary Stampede to develop a funding plan for the rest of the proposed expansion. 

  • A rebuilt Olympic Plaza - A modernized public space that is better designed to host our community’s festivals and events, both large and small. 

  • A new arena - I support a new arena, and certainly there is enormous benefit in having a NHL team and an arena in the downtown core, but it has to be the right deal for Calgarians - a made-in-Calgary solution that meets our unique needs during this fragile economic recovery. Built north of the Saddledome, in the heart of Victoria Park, a new arena could host sporting events and concerts throughout the year. I believe that we can develop a win/win funding model that works for both the taxpayer and CSEC (the owners of the Flames). The funding model must be based on the principle of public benefit for public money. The City will never walk away from the table and I will work hard to reach the right deal.

  • The Green Line LRT Station at 4th Street SE - The Green Line will connect the cultural and entertainment district to the thousands of Calgarians who will live and work along our new LRT line.

  • An expanded Arts Commons - Calgary has outgrown its performing arts centre and it needs a significant expansion to bring more shows to our community and increase performance space for local arts organizations. This investment will also improve Arts Commons’ long-term financial sustainability. There may also be an opportunity for a revitalized Glenbow, which is located right next door.

  • An innovation centre - Local entrepreneurs and startups need space to incubate and grow their businesses. CMLC and a private sector partner have plans to build 55,000 square feet of incubation space on top of a new 500 stall parking structure in the East Village. The innovation centre, which will have strong links to the New Central Library and Bow Valley College, will support the development of new businesses and new jobs. 

  • Public realm investment in key downtown neighbourhoods - Chinatown, Eau Claire, Stephen Avenue, East Village, Victoria Park and the Beltline are all great neighbourhoods and attractive destinations on their own but can be so much better. We need to support their success by continued investments in public spaces which will make for a more vibrant and attractive city centre.

  • Redevelopment of Victoria Park – A new collaborative approach for Victoria Park will be required between CMLC, the City, private landowners, Calgary Stampede and CSEC to make Victoria Park a great place to live and work.

Building a new arena on Stampede Park will not result in and of itself in major investments in the area. We know it takes more to build a vibrant neighbourhood - the Saddledome has been there for 34 years and very little has happened in Victoria Park around it. We need a more thoughtful, more holistic plan to bring together key facilities and create a prosperous and welcoming community.

The potential of the Rivers District cannot be overstated. It is already home to major cultural facilities, including Glenbow, Arts Commons, the National Music Centre, the new Central Library and Stampede Park. It is already the centre of our convention and exhibition business, with both the Telus Convention Centre and the BMO Centre. It is already the location of some of Calgary’s most special parks - Olympic Plaza, St Patrick’s Island and the spectacular Riverwalk. With over $3 billion in private sector investment, the East Village is home to several new businesses and attracting thousands of new residents. And all of this is connected to the rest of the city by the existing LRT and pathway system. An opportunity to build a cultural and entertainment district with so many amenities already in place does not exist anywhere else in North America.

This is a big, bold plan which will shape downtown Calgary over the next decade. It’s not just about creating a cultural district, but also about attracting talent and entrepreneurship. It’s a key part of our economic strategy and it’s about re-energizing the core of our city.

We have the opportunity to build something truly special. But we need to get the financial solution, the cooperation and the planning exactly right. I love this City, and in the last seven years we’ve done remarkable things together. I want to take on this next challenge with you and keep moving Calgary forward.

Re-elect Naheed Nenshi for Mayor - 2017