Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dead Space in Calgary's Core

One of the more puzzling and irritating, not to mention ignored, parts of downtown Calgary is the NW corner of the intersection of 7th Avenue and 2nd Street SW. It is by name, though not intent, a park, but one that is uninviting and underutilized, despite being at the core of the downtown area, right next to a C-Train station. Eve

At the moment, like much of 7th Avenue, access to the park is limited by construction, but the issues with the park existed long before the construction began.

The most unappealing things about the park are the brutalist waist- or chest-high planters and the Plus 15 pedestrian bridge casts a shadow over the area. These elements alone make it as welcoming as a chain link fence. Whenever I have visited the area, I have encountered no more than one person, and it has usually been a homeless person hiding out or napping off the warmest part of the day. If people tend to have this same experience on a regular basis, it would emphasize the fact that the large planters provide a great place to hide if one has criminal intentions. There are buildings in downtown Calgary that have cozier smoking areas outside their doors.

As if the design of the space was not enough to discourage people from using it, a sign indicates "Private Property, Restricted Access."

Regardless of the label, it is and ought to be a public space and one used to its maximum potential, especially in light of its location. Too much of downtown Calgary has surrendered itself to being a staid business district and devoted itself to the efficient movement of people from their sheltered parking to their offices and back all in the comfort of the great indoors. Ironically enough, the Devonian Gardens is just across the street and an elevator ride away.

Not only is the park a blight in itself, though the Plus 15 hinders its potential, it detracts from the visual and pedestrain access to the buildings just north and west of it. A great improvement to the area would start by removing the barricades along 7th Avenue. Those bulwarks in the image above are not required to protect the area from an errant vehicle from plowing into the park. Opening up the park to the sidewalk would definitely encourage people to come in and use the area. If I were to dream a little I'd go further and remove everything made of that brutalist cement and a variety of materials. Those planters would look far better if they were made of wood or even - I know, I'm dreaming - planted right into the ground.

While it is only a part of one block, this "park" is just one of many elements of downtown Calgary that discourage people from walking around the city. Complement this park with the parking garage on the east side of 2nd Street and there is not much to encourage people to meander the core.

I'll take up other issues with downtown shortly.

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