Eau Claire Market project includes huge mixed-use development – Plans for new residential, office and retail space

Redevelopment plans for the Eau Claire Market include five towers, 1,000 residential units, 800,000 square feet of office space, and 550,000 square feet for retail.

The ambitious plans by Regina-based Harvard Devlopments Inc. would transform the market into a more vibrant mixed-use area.

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“Our plans are to encompass all of the uses that were previously approved on this site. So this is a two-and-a-half-million-square-foot, fully-integrated mixed use project over a three phase development construction,” said Rosanne Hill Blaisdell, managing director of Harvard Buildings Inc. and vice-president of leasing for Harvard Developments Inc.

“We’ll see hotel, apartment, residential and condominiums, office building and a large area of retail.”

She said the developer has been working with the city and various community groups over the last year to come forward with a design. It is gearing up for a land-use application to be submitted before the end of this year or early in 2014 with a development permit following soon after.

Its objective would be to start construction in the fall of 2014 and the entire phased project would take seven to 10 years.

She said the first phase would take place in the southwest portion of the south parking lot and the current shopping centre would remain intact and continue to operate until a future phase of development. The first phase would include a podium with retail and a hotel with potentially condo above and rental apartments.

There would be three towers on the south podium and then two condo towers on the north side at a later date.

The current structure of Eau Claire Market will not come down until the project moves into its third phase in a few years and another structure will be built there to accommodate retail use.

“The Eau Claire Market was an ambitious 1980’s urban development dream that never realized its full potential,” said Michael Kehoe, an Alberta-based retail specialist with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate Inc. “Saddled with an awkward land lease with the City of Calgary and a city whose consumers are dedicated to a suburban lifestyle and regional shopping centres the Market achieved limited acceptance and retail impact.The project was well executed for the most part and situated in an ideal park-like urban setting along the banks of the Bow River with one of the city’s best open public spaces. It was ahead of its time for the Calgary market.

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“The stars appear to align for current redevelopment plans at the market site with the Eau Claire district nearing its full potential. Downtown daytime and resident populations are growing and the connectivity to the site with new adjacent office towers will ensure that the project is not an isolated commercial island as in the past. This project, if fully realized will be the final crowning piece in the development puzzle in the north central core area.”

Ken Cutler, owner of The Bean Stop, said his business “is clearly not part of any long-term plans there.”

“The reality is if they get approval for this project Eau Claire Market is going to cease to exist,” said Cutler. The Bean Stop has been at the market since the beginning in 1993. Cutler has owned it since 2001.

“It’s almost a sense of closure.”

Pat Gallo, owner of the Prego Cucina Italiana restaurant, said his business has been in the Market since the mid-1990s and he’s hoping it will remain there for the long run.

“Everybody notices the redevelopment in and around the surrounding areas. Lot of residential . . . The area is up and coming so we hope we all prosper,” said Gallo.

“Any change will be a good change, a positive change, as far as we’re concerned.”

Maggie Schofield, executive director of the Calgary Downtown Association, said she is impressed with the Eau Claire Market redevelopment plans.

“It’s a very thoughtful project,” she said. “This is very impressive. It’s very distinctive. They looked at the preservation of the historical cafe and smokestack in a really good way and I think that reflects we always want to make sure that heritage is protected.

“They seem to have this very good pedestrian experience incorporated into the whole development . . . We think it will be a really vibrant area.”


© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Home builder files $6 million defamation lawsuit against Mayor Nenshi

Shane Homes CEO Cal Wenzel is suing the mayor of Calgary for $6 million over allegations of defamation — and taxpayers could be on the hook for the mayor’s legal bills.

The lawsuit is necessary because Naheed Nenshi declined to apologize to Wenzel for defamation, according to a statement from the home builder issued Friday.

“I requested and hoped for an apology. That was all. Had he agreed, this matter could have ended. He declined to do so and the matter is now before the courts,” Wenzel said in the statement.

A statement of claim filed Nov. 13 states Nenshi “developed an overarching civic election campaign strategy to smear Wenzel for political gain.”

“Nenshi planned to use Wenzel as a foil to his political ambitions and aspirations, which were contingent on the election of a sufficient number of city councillors who shared and supported Nenshi’s political agenda,” states the document, which was filed in Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench.

The statement of claim details the history between the veteran home builder and Nenshi, including a video that surfaced in April and showed Wenzel speaking to industry executives at a private meeting in November 2012.

In the surreptitiously recorded video, the Shane Homes founder divided council members into “our side” and the “dark side” and spoke of ambitions to promote developer-friendly councillors through direct donations and a $1.1-million injection into the conservative Manning Centre.

The court document states Nenshi chose to distort Wenzel’s comments in the leaked video, and as a result, Wenzel “unwittingly became a focal point in the 2013 Calgary municipal election rhetoric through Nenshi’s purposeful efforts.”

The court document also details specific defamation comments including a conversation between David Gray of CBC Radio One and Nenshi during the Eyeopener program on Oct. 9, 2013.

The conversation included “false and maliciously spoken words by Nenshi,” the court document states. Those “defamatory words” were understood to mean Wenzel deliberately broke the law and “Wenzel is the head of a mafia-like organization that is working to disrupt municipal politics utilizing immoral or illegal practices,” states the document.

A statement of defence has not yet been filed. None of the allegations are proven.

The mayor’s assistant Daorcey Le Bray said Nenshi would not speak about the matter until he has been legally served, which is expected to happen next week.

A communications consultant with the City of Calgary’s law department said every case is unique and the department hasn’t formulated an opinion on this one because they have yet to receive the documents. When pressed on who would foot the mayor’s legal costs, Heather Geddes said it is possible taxpayers could be on the line.

A council policy states that if any member of council has litigation brought against him or her resulting from carrying out duties as a council member, he or she has the right to bring the matter before council to seek payment of legal costs.

In Friday’s statement, Wenzel said he waited until after the election was over to sue Nenshi “so as not to create a sideshow that would distract from important city issues.”

The court document claims Wenzel has suffered damages including a death threat to him and his family and emotional distress and humiliation.

The statement of claim seeks $5 million in damages and an additional $1 million in punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages.

Wenzel, who has been building homes in Calgary since 1979, said monetary compensation is not his primary motivation for the lawsuit. Any damages Wenzel receives will be donated or otherwise directed into charitable works, the statement said.


© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Calgary leads country in new home price increase – Highest annual hike since July 2007

Calgary led the country in September with the highest increase year-over-year in new home prices.

The New Housing Price Index, released Thursday by Statistics Canada, said prices in the Calgary area were up 6.3 per cent from a year ago, which represented the highest annual hike since July 2007.

Nationally, prices rose 1.6 per cent.

On a monthly basis, prices rose by 0.5 per cent in Calgary from August while they were flat across the country.

“The largest monthly price increase in September occurred in Calgary . . . where builders reported that rising material and labour costs as well as higher land development costs contributed to the price gain. New home prices in Calgary have been increasing since December 2011,” said the federal agency.


© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald