New southeast Calgary underpass in the works, adding connection to future event centre

Located in a largely undeveloped swath of land north of the Saddledome, the underpass will be similar to the one on 4th Street S.E.

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Another access point to Calgary’s entertainment district is being planned as the city prepares for a slew of major developments in the area.

Calgary Municipal Land Corp. (CMLC) — created by the city in 2007 and charged with revitalizing both the Rivers District and the Culture and Entertainment District — said Monday an underpass at 6th Street S.E. is being designed.

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Located in a largely undeveloped swath of land north of the Saddledome — and neighbouring the future Green Line and event centre locations — the underpass will be similar to the 4th Street S.E. underpass that was completed in 2011, said Kate Thompson, CMLC president and CEO.

“As we anticipate the build-out of over four million square feet of mixed-use development, we need to make sure that we have connection points, more than just one north-south exit,” Thompson told reporters at the site of the future underpass, where construction for the Green Line LRT project rumbled along early Monday.

“We want to make sure that our city moves, and one of the best ways to do that is increased connection points.”

Despite being a stone’s throw from downtown traffic, the underpass will be in an almost forgotten area of Calgary, which Thompson called a “really high-value piece of land.”

Arena event centre map

The 4th Street S.E. underpass cost CMLC and the city about $70 million to complete. The city subsidiary did not say Monday how much the new underpass is expected to cost, but said Rivers District infrastructure projects will use money the province allocated in the event centre deal. The split for each project hasn’t been decided, CMLC said.

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“What I see when I’m standing here is, yes, I see the bus barns right in front of me and I don’t see much behind. But I do see in the future an active, bustling multimodal underpass. I see wonderful riverside residences and a village creation on this 11-acre parcel that is the bus barns today,” Thompson said.

The project is still in early stages, as CMLC only began scoping the work required to build the underpass late last year. It said the event centre’s agreements, released last week, allows the corporation to move the underpass into the next stage of development.

The announcement comes as CMLC announced it’s advancing more than $1 billion in infrastructure project completions and initiations this year.

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6th Street underpass
Excavators work on a section of 6th Street near 12th Avenue S.E. on Monday. Brent Calver/Postmedia

That includes several high-profile projects crossing the finish line: the BMO Centre expansion and Victoria Park/Stampede Station rebuild are expected to complete construction by time of the Calgary Stampede in early July, as will the 17th Avenue extension.

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Developers are also showing interest in further building out the East Village, Thompson said. CMLC recently signed letters of intent for three undisclosed development parcels in the area, it said, and “looks forward to seeing those agreements progress in 2024.”

The Arts Commons and Olympic Plaza transformation plans are also slated to go public this spring.

That will include design plans for Arts Commons’ new 1,000-seat theatre and 200-seat studio theatre. Olympic Plaza’s transformation is going through the design phase this year, CMLC said.

CMLC has substantially grown since completing the $245-million Central Library in late 2018, which was at the time its biggest project to date.

In the five subsequent years, the dollar amount of projects it’s managing has increased five-fold, she said, and its staff has increased by 30 per cent.

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