Redesigning Communities in Calgary

Written by: Gary Davies

By thinking big, Calgarians have an opportunity to redesign their communities, and the city as a result. Calgary could create the biggest continuous park in the world if it were to remove the train tracks cutting through the city, and re-routing it around in a similar manner to the ring road.


This was just one of the proposed projects that has resulted from the “Safe and Smooth” program developed by Safer Calgary and International University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands over the last six years. In that time, over 350 students have gone through the program, using Calgary as the canvas to develop a multitude of community improvement concepts to choose from.

The concepts were presented during CMLC Community Day at the historic St. Louis building, as part of Best of Calgary Ideas Week.

Program founders Greg Hart and Inke Spapé, explained that over the lifetime of the program, students were given few barriers for the project; “Think big and be practical” being the main one and “Be disruptive and think differently” being the other. But students did have to budget out their projects. Not only the cost of construction, but also the economic spin-offs of their work. The results were impressive, like the idea of ripping out the railway tracks that have long divided our city to develop kilometres of parkway throughout the core of the city.

Other concepts that have come out of the last six years of work: A green bridge that would connect Bridgeland to St. Patrick’s Island; a re-design of the communities of Haysboro and Acadia to ensure that biking from one end of the community to the other can happen within nine minutes; and the burying of Macleod Trail to make that area of the city more pedestrian friendly.

Hart says it’s no secret that concepts like this break with tradition, but “you need to show people alternatives. The net positive to their lives is very interesting to see.”

 Gary Davies is co-founder of Best of Calgary

Kelsey Woods