The Retail Next Gen Series is composed of posts contributed by Colliers professionals across North America who have joined the commercial real estate industry in the past five years. Retail Next Gen Series contributors meet regularly to share best practices and discuss emerging trends, bringing fresh perspective to the key challenges and opportunities within the retail industry.
Situated in the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta is Calgary, the heart of Canada’s oil and gas sector. It is also a dynamic urban center full of opportunities to shop, dine and experience art, culture, sporting events and festivals.
Calgary boasts a young and well-educated population, with the city’s demographics boasting an annual household income of more than $64,000 — the highest in Canada. Around 1.1 million people live in Calgary, with a surrounding metropolitan population greater than 1.2 million. The city’s population has seen healthy growth rates between 1.1% and 3.7% over the past 20 years thanks to international and inter-provincial immigration.
In recent months, Calgary has seen a spike of interest from foreign real estate investors as sister communities in Toronto and Vancouver implement a 15% tax on non-Canadian home purchasers. Retailers and developers are taking notice as the increase in residential property purchases might fuel retail spending, attract major national and international retailers and drive demand for high-end malls, outlets, unique street-front retail and suburban developments.
Aerial view of Calgary. Image credit: Peak Aerials.
HIGHLIGHTS OF CALGARY’S SHOPPING DISTRICTS
In particular, retailers and developers considering a presence in Calgary should consider the following districts:
High walkability and proximity to downtown Calgary as well as the Elbow River and Stampede grounds make this area an attractive destination for shopping, dining or an evening out. The district has evolved from a small retail area into a robust retail, restaurant and entertainment hot spot thanks in part to recent redevelopment and densification. Local food choices include vegetarian, local, ethnic, fine dining and brewpubs.
Stephen Avenue Walk
Walk Score: 97
Transit Score: 85
The central location of this pedestrian mall in downtown Calgary provides synergy between the small boutique-style shops in heritage buildings as well as the CORE Shopping Centre and Scotia Plaza. Its proximity to the theater district, Arts Commons and Telus Convention Centre provides a diversity of restaurant, retail and entertainment options. Earlier this year, the area welcomed the opening of Simons, the iconic 176-year-old Canadian department store.
Stephen Avenue Walk.
Walk Score: 84
Transit Score: 57
Steps away from Memorial Drive, the Bow River and downtown, Kensington’s community-centric district is a colorful mix of clothing, contemporary furniture retailers as well as coffee shops and bakeries. Kensington features extended bike routes along both river shores and is home to the famous Peace Pedestrian Bridge, a popular destination for locals and tourist alike.
Kensington. Image credit: Cole Hofstra Photography.
Walk Score: 57
Transit Score: 49
Calgary’s “original main street,” Inglewood was first established in 1875. Today the hip shopping district offers a mix of arts, music and cultural events, as well as a selection of eclectic boutiques, cafés and artisanal shops. The area is also home to nature-based landmarks such as the Calgary Zoo, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Bow Habitat Station, Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery and Inglewood Wildlands Park.
For discount and outlet shopping, look no further than CrossIron Mills. This 1.4-million-square-foot development is a 20-minute drive from downtown and home to luxury and mainstream retailers.
There are several notable developments under construction in Calgary, including Legacy Regional, East Hills and Trinity Hills, which will encompass more than 700,000 square feet. Also, Seton (Phase I and II) is the largest development currently under construction at 973,000 square feet.
Retailers and developers should keep an eye on Calgary’s retail market vacancies with a stable and positive outlook. As residential real estate development lures the discerning foreign investor, consumers are sure to follow soon after.
Ryann Braaten is a retail services associate based in Calgary. She specializes in retail leasing and sales representation, helping clients to achieve their business goals. Ryann is currently working toward a degree in Urban Land Economics through UBC’s Sauder School of Business.