The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), City of Calgary and Arts Commons, last week announced the Olympic Plaza Transformation—a new city-building initiative to renew an important but aging downtown cultural space.
CMLC will issue a competitive RFP for a qualified design team within weeks and following selection of the proponents, design is expected to take place through 2023 and 2024. Construction timelines for the Olympic Plaza redevelopment will be defined as the project plan is refined.
“Over the past two years, we’ve seen more than $189 million in private investment committed into the downtown and these types of major public space improvements are critical to creating a complete downtown experience,” says Thom Mahler, director of Calgary’s downtown strategy team. “We are charting a new future for Calgary’s downtown cultural, arts, and entertainment identity.”
The project will transform the plaza into an innovative, flexible and active space in the downtown core. Its proximity to Arts Commons—currently undergoing its own $480M transformation—will allow for design synergies, construction efficiencies and coordinated leadership.
“The Olympic Plaza Transformation project clearly illustrates the renaissance that Calgary’s downtown is poised to experience. This is what happens when a municipality, together with its partner organizations and the business community, believes and invests in itself,” says Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek.
“The $425 million investment in the Downtown Strategy is paying off both in terms of reciprocal private investment and global attention.”
In its budget for 2023-2026, Calgary earmarked $108 million for downtown revitalization, including upgrades to Olympic Plaza and Stephen Avenue and $40 million has been allocated to the Olympic Plaza Transformation for project initiation, design team procurement and design development. Additional funding will be required prior to construction commencing on the project.
A development agreement that will now govern the delivery of both the Arts Commons Transformation and the Olympic Plaza Transformation. As development manager, CMLC is responsible for stewarding design and construction on behalf of its partners. CMLC will also manage the redevelopment of Stephen Avenue in this block.
“As development manager for the expansion and modernization of Arts Commons, CMLC is perfectly positioned to lead the Olympic Plaza Transformation with a coordinated approach that dramatically elevates the entire block,” said Kate Thompson, CMLC’s president & CEO.
CMLC and the selected design team will explore the plaza’s historic elements and significance as a gathering place during the 1988 Winter Olympics and will provide additional opportunities for public input as the project progresses.
“Overseeing the successful activation of Olympic Plaza allows Arts Commons to expand on our mandate of stewarding cultural assets in our city on behalf of the citizens of Calgary. Leveraging this outdoor community space to connect more artists to more audiences will create a more vibrant and resilient cultural presence in our downtown core,” says Alex Sarian, president and CEO of Arts Commons.
“Envisioning Olympic Plaza as part of the new Arts Commons campus gives us so much more flexibility to deliver public and private outdoor events—a tremendous boon to our ambitions to diversify our programming and extending our reach,” he said in a statement.