CALGARY — A tiny gravel footpath lined with lilac bushes in West Hillhurst has become a focal point for area opposition to increasing development.
The path that connects 19 Street N.W. to 18 Street is actually on the books as a city street, listed as Third Avenue, though one would never know by looking at it.
“It’s almost like a little country lane. Like it feels like kind of a cottage house in something you might find it England perhaps,” said West Hillhurst resident Michael Wing
“I think it is somewhat of a hidden gem for this community, and it gives it it’s part of the character of this neighborhood.”
For at least half a century it’s been a footpath used by school children heading to Queen Elizabeth School, and residents trekking to and from the businesses along 19 Street, but residents fear the pathway’s days are numbered because a developer has applied for a land us change on an adjacent property, which would allow for up to a five-storey mixed commercial and residential condo building.
Some residents say it’s time to push pause on development.
“There’s enough I think, we’re getting oversaturated now and buying another two residential houses and pushing this is, I think, to me as a far reach,” said Peter Hughes, whose house neighbours the proposed development. “They’ve got a lot of development going further down 19th Street, there”
19 Street N.W. has changed dramatically in the past few years as many war time “victory homes” have been torn down to make way for multi-storey commercial and residential buildings.
For many residents here the gravel pathway marks a line in the sand in a battle with developers, and with city hall.
“The city has promised that we have a Riley communities development plan process for the communities of Hounsfield Heights, Briar Hill, West Hillhurst, Hillhurst, and Sunnyside. That planning process has been put off, put off, (and) put off,” said West Hillhurst resident Glenna Healey. “In the meantime, these land use designation applications and development permits are popping up. And they’re being approved. And all we’re saying is really can we slow this down? “
PATHWAY WILL REMAIN
The developer said he is trying to work with the community. When CTV caught up with Stirling Karlsen, the owner of Innurskape developments was going door to door in the neighbourhood explaining his vision of a multistory condo, and telling residents a pathway connecting 18 to 19 Streets will remain, no matter what he builds.
“I grew up in the area, I went to Queen Elizabeth junior and senior high school, I passed through this road path, thousands of times,” said Karlsen. “I’ve used this path as many times as most people have, and my intention was not by any means to close it off. I am adamantly opposed to that as well.”
PATHWAY WILL CHANGE
Karlsen conceded that if his proposed development does go ahead though, the pathway will likely be dramatically altered from its quaint “country lane” image.
“I see benches being set out here, seating areas, this could become a nice place for people to congregate, not just a walkway, to quickly get to the other side. “
Karlsen points out that part of the pathway where it meets 18 Street already functions as a back alley where residents in two homes drive on it for access to their garages. He would like to be able to use a portion of the pathway to allow parking access to his proposed development, believing that a front entrance off 19 Street would be unsafe for both drivers and pedestrians.
“Then you would have all of those cars backing out onto 19 Street. So with that, you’re now going to take away all of the visitor parking the street parking in front of the properties,” said Karlsen “That’s not great for the community either.”
DIMINISH QUALITY OF LIFE
Hillhurst resident Shirley Winkel worried the large building, will diminish the quality of life and drive down property value in the area.
“It’s like a monstrosity sitting on the corner. And it is not, it’s just not feasible,” she said. “As I’m saying, they are ghettoizing our, our community, we have a lot of people to have expensive homes that have just been built along here. And I’m sure their property values will go down as a result of this thing.”
Winkel added that losing, or changing the pathway will only exacerbate to problem “it’s important to have to have this bit of green space, we don’t have a green space here. And the people with the lilacs, everybody loves the lilacs through here and enjoy the smell in the spring of the pathway.”
‘FACES SOME DESIGN ISSUES’
The area councillor says the site “faces some design issues”. As a result Ward 7 Councillor Druh Farrell said she doesn’t know if the proposed development will be before council for approval ahead of the upcoming election. Farrell is not running for re-election so voting on the proposal may fall to her successor.
As a result, residents are attempting to make the development an election issue, by distributing candidates contact information to residents in the area.
Meanwhile the city’s planning department is still taking public submission on the proposed land use change until Friday June 11. No date has been set for public hearings on the proposed development.