June 26, 2018

Anthem’s Waterfront Saga

Richard White
The Everyday Tourist

I recently toured Anthem Properties’ impressive Waterfront project located on the shore of the Bow River between Sien Lok Park and Eau Claire Market. Some might remember it as old Greyhound Bus Barns site as I do.

I have been following this development of this site since the late ‘90s when it came available, first as the Executive Director of the Calgary Downtown Association and later as a member of City of Calgary Planning Commission.

Waterfront’s facade along Riverfront Avenue combines both contemporary and tradition materials to create a visually rich pedestrian experience.

To make a long story short…

Anthem bought the Greyhound site in 2004, spent two years getting approvals and cleaning up the contamination, before starting sales in 2006 and construction in 2007, just as the North American mortgage crisis hit.

But they kept building and were rewarded with Calgary’s booming economy from 2010 to 2014, only to be hit again by the oil price crash. But they continued to build and are just now completing the last of the 10 buildings that comprise Calgary’s largest multi-family development with 1,000+ homes.

The first phase of the Waterfront development were these two towers a block away from the Chinese Cultural Centre.

Urban living at its best

Waterfront is located at the heart of Calgary’s amazing Bow River Promenade that now extends from the 14th Street Bridge and Shaw Millennium Park all the way east to Fort Calgary and the new ENMAX Park at the Stampede Grounds. Residents can easily walk to the Olympic Plaza Cultural District, Stephen Avenue Walk or to Kensington Village. They also have immediate access to Prince’s Island or St. Patrick’s Island Park. And Chinatown is just outside their front door.

Waterfront is home to Calgarians of all ages and backgrounds, including young families. I even heard that at one time an oil company had 30 condos that they rented to employees from around the world who were working in Calgary on a temporary basis.

Waterfront cascades downward as it get closer to the Bow River Promenade to create a more pedestrian friendly experience and also reduces shadows on the pathway. Walkers can look in and residents look out as there is no blank privacy wall separating the public and private space.

Vancouver East?

Whether you are driving, walking or cycling along Memorial Drive, Waterfront has a definite Vancouver look, not only because of the glass-dominated façades, but also because each building is strategically located to maximize the views – you could easily think you are living in Vancouver’s Yaletown or Coal Harbour. This is not surprising as the buildings were designed by Vancouver’s Rafii Architects, designers of many of Vancouver’s signature glass condo towers. Also, the located right on the Bow River promenade gives the feel of Vancouver’s seawall walk.

This is the view of downtown from the Centre Street bridge with Waterfront in the foreground. Increasingly the downtown office towers are becoming hidden by a ring of condos which is changing the city’s skyline.

This is the concept model for the Waterfront development, looking north east. Architect: IBI Vancouver

What’s Next?

Anthem Properties is currently building a 93-home project on Memorial Drive just west of the tony Kensington Inn and have purchased the old CBC site further west on Memorial Drive.

They also have completed the planning and design for a transformative new development on McLeod Trail across from the Erlton LRT Station. Named Crosstown, it will be a four-tower condo project with a 75,000 square foot grocery store (that is size of a typical suburban store) which will help make Erlton a more complete community.

The Memorial drive project reflects the Kensington Village sense of place with its brick facade and human scale. Architect: Vancouver’s Rositich Hemphill

Fancy Dancing?

While the public and politicians sometimes think condo development is easy – you just buy some land, create a plan, get approval, sell it, build it, then sit back and collect the profits, it is a lot more complicated than that.

The developer pays for the land, the cost of design, approvals and construction before they see a dime and if the economy changes (as it always does), they have to do some fancy dancing to keep the project viable.

Condo development is not for the those who are risk adverse – or the faint of heart!

View the original blog post, here.