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Calgary’s Currie Barracks opened in 1933 as a military base on what was then the southwest edge of the city. Today it is inner-city, bounded on the east by Crowchild Trail and Sarcee Road on the west, from Richardson Way on the south and Richmond Green Park on the north.
It is named after Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on the Western Front during the First World War. For the next 60-plus years, it was home to various Canadian Forces personnel — and even had an air strip during the Second World War. However, in 1998, the Canadian Forces Base in Calgary was closed, creating a unique inner-city infill development opportunity.
Evolution of an urban village
Canada Lands Corp., the federal government’s development corporation, immediately went to work creating a master plan that resulted in the creation of three inner city communities on the old Canada Forces base east and west of Crowchild Trail: Garrison Woods, Garrison Green and Currie (formerly Currie Barracks).
Currie, the last phase of the redevelopment, currently has 980 homes, with more than 1,300 people and is growing rapidly. It includes everything from single family to row homes, from lane houses to long-term care homes, as well as low rise apartment blocks. Already several public spaces, including a dog park, playground, splash park and Valour Park, have been created. It is very family friendly with six schools within the community, as well as Mount Royal University, Bishop Carroll High School and French language schools on its south edge.
Currently under construction is the huge Currie Green, by Statesman, a 400-home complex where Calgarians can age in place. It will be completed in 2024 and includes its own medical clinic. There are four future affordable housing sites within the remaining phases with three sites already committed to Horizon Housing (73 new affordable homes will open in 2024). Furthermore, CLC is committed to ensuring a minimum of 20 per cent of all new homes in Currie will be “below market” housing in the future.
Rohit is currently building two six-storey apartment buildings that will add 300 more homes geared to young professionals and empty nesters. They will be within easy walking distance to the renovated historic Stables building (where CFB first housed their horses and later their motorcycles) which is home the Veranda craft beer, Burwood Distillery, a restaurant and sunny festive outdoor plaza.
To date, Currie has been an incubator for 70 small businesses — from small medical offices to tech companies and, of course, the Calgary Farmers’ Market and Wild Rose Brewery. Another unique feature of Currie is that three of its existing buildings are used by CBC’s hit show Heartland, one for production (the old Calgary Farmers’ Market), one for makeup and one for set design and construction. It is definitely a mixed-use community.
In 2015, CLC forged a strategic partnership with developer BOSA to embark on the development of Currie’s central 23-acre site next to Crowchild Trail known as The Core. This partnership aspires to create a high density, mixed-use urban walkable hub within Currie that is connected to the city’s bus rapid transit servicing the area.
After eight years of developing a vision, negotiating approvals and weathering the many changes in Calgary’s economy the first site is currently in the process of being sold to a developer with the first cranes coming in late 2024/ early 2025.
Currie is Calgary’s pioneering LEED ND (Neighbourhood Development) community, a testament to CLC’s commitment to creating a sustainable living community that integrates the existing heritage elements with modern urban buildings and public realm. In total, the Currie master plan has designated 11 historic buildings and two landscapes for preservation. This includes The Inn on Officers’ Garden, which was originally the CFB officers’ mess hall and garden. CLC is also committed to preserving six additional legacy buildings, which are currently home to the six schools within Currie’s boundaries.
Currie is a great example of how urban sites evolve and adapt over time to changing economic, political and market conditions. As Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, wrote in the early 1960s, “good community development is evolutionary, not revolutionary.”
Currie is a good example of evolutionary urban development.