Mardo Loop shows Calgary how urban density is done

Redevelopment in the inner-city community of Marda Loop is following the city's urban density plan perfectly and is a prime example of a dense, walkable and vibrant neighbourhood.

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Mardo Loop shows Calgary how urban density is done


One of the city’s very popular inner-city communities is Marda Loop, a trading/residential area that spans the south end of the community of South Calgary and the north end of the Garrison Woods/Altadore district.

The last 15 years has really seen a significant change where this once quiet community has turned into a hip destination.  Part of the desirability of the area has been the commercial area that runs along 33 Ave SW and 34 Ave SW between 20St SW and Crowchild Trail.

It’s become more urban and more walkable according to Bob van Wegen who is in charge of the Marda Loop business district.  He was asked for comment recently for an article in the Calgary Real Estate News.

Marda Loop History

The odd name goes back 80 years to a time when the streetcar line trundled up 33 Avenue from 14 Street.  There was a turnaround at the end of the line by 20 St which was called the “loop.”  Marda was the name of the theatre that was once on the south west corner of 33 Ave and 20 St SW.

Marda Loop was just once the name of the commercial area but now it includes the residential areas all around it. 

The community has many original homes that developers are trying to preserve.  Some of the smaller homes built in the 40s and 50s, of limited architectural significance, are the ones being knocked down in favour of lovely new infills and street home developments.

Changing Streetscape

New retail buildings are also popping up in the district, like Garrison Corner at 34 Ave just north of the Safeway shopping centre.  A beautiful structure designed by Abugov Kaspar opened in the summer of 2016 and boasts Calgary favourites such as Village Ice Cream, a Davids Tea location and Cobs.

There’s a day care on the second level of the three-storey building.  To the east there are more retailers like Urban Dog Market, Strides Running Store and ANEW Table, which Avenue Magazine has proclaimed as one of the city’s top restaurants.

On the north east corner of 33 Ave and 20 St is a four-storey project which has been a long time in the making.  The main floor tenant is Blush Lane Organic Market.  This mixed-use building has condos above the store.  It was designed by McKinley Burkart and constructed by Sarina Homes which has had offices in Marda Loop since the mid-2000s.

The founder, Naz Virani, told the Calgary Real Estate News that Marda Loop is a special community and is glad that the neighbourhood is following the City of Calgary’s smart growth plan to build density by keeping and promoting “main streets” like 33 Avenue.

Density in Marda Loops keeps the streets busy with people, shoppers, dog walkers and browsers.  It’s easy to live in Marda Loop without a car.  The neighbourhood is in the Car2Go zone and transit is quick to downtown.  The bike lanes in Marda Loop keep more cars off the street.

Integrated Public Art

We are starting to see more public art integrated into Marda Loop, particularly now that the art space in King Edward has influence in the neighbourhood.

Because of that, Sarina Homes engaged an artist to create a mural for a construction site it has to continue that vibrant theme.  The colourful commissioned artwork by Calgary artists Daniel Kirk and Lane Shordee is called “Called in Motion” and will depict the interaction in Marda Loop.  It’s the second time these two local artists have worked together after creating a mural in Inglewood in 2016.  It can be seen on the concrete wall under the CPR underpass at 9 Ave SE and Blackfoot Trail.

Another public art installation will appear in the Marda Loop district this summer in celebration of Canada’s 150th Birthday.

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