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March 22, 2012

Inner city icon

Historic Bridgeland is as vital to the city’s future as its past

Pepper Rodriguez

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Bridgeland played a vital role in shaping Calgary’s past, and now the community is being called upon again to play a vital part of the city’s future, and when it comes to multi-family homes, it’s the inner city spot to be.

Strolling down 1st Avenue N.E. in Bridgeland presents a colorful visual experience, in the past it was because of the fresh fruit stalls lining the front of family-owned stores, quaint infill homes and dozens of brick buildings reflecting an architectural design of a bygone era.

Now, it remains to be a very romantic part of town with the added spice of modernity that the new condominiums and other commercial developments bring.

It is an area steeped in history, possessing a rare melancholic atmosphere of a turn-of-the-century township yet brimming with optimism and hope that its first immigrant settlers brought.


The perfect location

As in the past, what has made the Bridgeland popular was its fantastic and oh-so-accessible location. The downtown core, the Calgary Zoo, the Bow River, Eau Claire market and Prince’s Island Park are all within easy walking distance from the area. 

Steep escarpments to the west, north and east of the community also separate it from the neighboring residential communities. This landscape has served to give the community its distinct character and flavor, making it into a kind of island that is at once isolated from the bustling city streets yet near enough that you can take a leisurely stroll to the city core.  

It was very much a “working man’s district” even before the community was incorporated into the city (Bridgeland in 1907 and Riverside in 1910), attracting a predominantly immigrant population who were seeking inexpensive places to live near the growing city.

German immigrants settled in the district of Riverside, while Italian and Ukrainian immigrants flocked to Bridgeland. All had a significant influence on the development of the community that can still be seen today. Now, the community is poised once again to be an ideal neighbourhood where one can live near the heart of the city raise a family and still remain at the heart of the city.

Historic old homes continue to dot the community, fantastic views of the Downtown, the Bow River Valley and the Rocky Mountains add to its romantic air, an eclectic collection of Mediterranean and European shops and restaurants give the area an enviable character and flavor. 


One of a kind community 

Bridgeland was named after the historical Langevin Bridge that was built in 1885, and appropriately enough the community lies across three more bridges that get traffic from Edmonton Trail and Memorial Drive into the downtown.

It is nearer the downtown core than any other inner city neighborhood, as well Bridgeland-Riverside has a landscape that offers beautiful views of the city and the Rockies, and is nestled against the river which provides plenty of recreational activities.

There are a number of shops and stores along the busy Edmonton Trail and 16th Avenue N.E. “Little Italy” is known for its numerous Italian shops and restaurants. The historical Inglewood shopping area is easily accessible across St George’s Island from the community. The nearest shopping malls are either downtown or east along Memorial to 36th Street N.E.

For recreation, the community is closest to the Bow River and Nose Creek recreational pathway systems that connect to most other areas of the city, including downtown and Princes Island Park. The area offers a number of recreational pursuits; there is an indoor pool and an indoor ice arena in Renfrew Park, just south of 16th Avenue. There is an outdoor pool at Bridgeland (close to the LRT station, as well as an outdoor ice rink. The Calgary Zoo and the new Telus Science Centre are also among the highlights of the community.


New developments

Bucci’s NEXT condos are among the latest wave of multi-families to call Bridgeland home.

“Bridgeland is a historic neighbourhood with a well-established amenities base that is really beneficial to our buyers. It has its own charm and a real village atmosphere that lends well to the uniqueness of NEXT,” says Mike Bucci. “The best thing is that because of its hillside location, a majority of the units (not counting those facing the courtyard) will get terrific views of the city even if they are on the ground floor.”

Consisting of two four-storey buildings right on Edmonton Trail, NEXT will be home to 132 apartment-style homes. Outside, the buildings pay homage to historical Bridgeland with an attractive red brick and Hardie plank façade. On the interior, from the suites themselves to the common area amenities, it’s all about the lifestyle. 

Battistella’s Brunette is just a little up the hill from NEXT, and this boutique style development has been a big hit as it is almost all sold out.

This four-storey building consists exclusively of two-storey and corner units, and only a handful remain of the 20 it has. “The spectacular downtown views and our location in this wonderfully eclectic neighbourhood that’s within walking distance to the core were a big part of our appeal,,” says Battistella’s Traci Wilson.

Also new is InHouse Attainable Housing Society’s McPherson Place. Not a more apt location can be found, as this inner city community is just a short walk to the downtown core and is right on the route of public transportation, with the LRT Station just down the road. Also, the historic significance of Bridgeland as a haven for Calgary’s new immigrants during the city’s founding days gives McPherson Place further relevance.

“We are confident McPherson Place will add to the strong sense of community Bridgeland already has, there are parks and pathways nearby, there are already plenty of unique restaurants and coffee shops in the immediate vicinity and downtown is just a short walk away, everything anyone can really need is within arm’s reach” says Judy Hoad, InHouse’s board chair.

What sparked the community’s revitalization is the monumental The Bridges project, which build on the area’s rich past and create a modern urban village that looks to the future. In more ways than one, The Bridges will embody the link between Calgary’s storied past and its future as one of the most urbane, forward-looking, highly developed cities in Canada.

The development is located on what was once the site of the Calgary General Hospital, and is to be a three-phase residential project that when completed will house 1,525 residential units, mostly condominiums and townhouses.


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