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September 01, 2015

Condoscapes: A bold, new frontier

Condos take supporting role in redevelopment of East Village

Richard White

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Soon hundreds of people will be calling East Village home, the first new residents in this massive reclamation project just east of downtown since Battistella Developments’ Orange Lofts in 2003. When Mayor Dave Bronconnier announced the City was forming the Canada Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), in 2007, to develop yet another master plan for East Village (after 2005 World’s Fair plan failed) many were doubtful it would be successful.

Under the leadership of Chris Ollenberger, CMLC’s first CEO, the development of an ambitious and comprehensive East Village Master Plan was fast tracked. Soon major infrastructure projects commenced — 4th Street Underpass, Riverwalk and rebuilding of all the roads — to demonstrate to potential developers and future purchasers the new East Village was going to happen.

Over the past few years, East Village — now run by new CMLC CEO Michael Brown — has been a mega construction site with a mix of exciting projects — condos, museum, library, hotel, and pedestrian bridge. It is not coincidental the Simmons Building and St. Patrick’s Island both reopened just as new residents are about to move in.  It was all part of the master plan; each project was timed to create a synergy that will foster a vibrant new mixed-use urban village for Calgarians.

I must admit, when I first saw the computer renderings for the new East Village condominiums I was less than impressed. I was expecting designs that were more intriguing, innovative and individual. 

FRAM+Slokker’s 18-storey condo, First, seemed conservative for a 21st century urban village with its rectangular podium at street level with another rectangle tower on top. Their follow-up, Verve, however, promises a more modern feel.

Similarly, Embassy BOSA’s Evolution a white two-tower condo with brick podium also seemed like a generic design that could be anywhere.  Nothing shouted out to me “this is new, this is innovative, this is the new East Village in Calgary.”

I was surprised none of the new designs integrate some of the blue green palette of the Bow River.  Rather it seems the palette for East Village condos (including Knightsbridge’s N3) were solely white, black and grey.

However, after recently hanging out in East Village, my thinking is changing. The big, bold architectural statements in East Village will be the National Music Centre and the new Central Library, with the condos playing a supporting role.  I now realize, First, Verve, Evolution and N3 don’t need to be bold, they need to work in harmony with the new Library and National Music Centre and historic buildings like the Simmons Building.

Last word
In a good landscape painting there are usually one or two focal points with the rest of the painting providing visual interest through their line, shape, space, colours, textures, contrasts, variety, rhythms and patterns that are synergistic with the focal points. East Village’s landscape painting is still a work in progress, but it is getting better every month.

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