The City of Calgary is embarking on a pilot project that aims to use a creative flair to support businesses during road and utility work.
"The need for this was borne out of the location of the project," said project manager Logan Tolsma of the two mile stretch of around 400 businesses. "The location determined the need."
Work on 17th Avenue to replace water and sanitary lines, repair and rebuild the road, and make public realm improvements including new sidewalks, benches, trees and streetlights is well underway. The city partnered with Blank Page Studio to form the cREative Realm.
The goal of the program is to encourage interactive, playful experiences that will encourage people to continue to visit the area. Artists will transform each block into an experience. There will be at least four different projects that pop-up along the avenue this year between Macleod Trail and 4 Street S.W. for residents to check out.
One of the first is "200 Stories," created by Laura Reid, Mark Limacher and Matt Knapik.
It is comprised of six audio episodes linked to locations on the 200 block of 17th Avenue S.E. Listeners are guided by bronze survey markers installed in the ground.
Another that is already up is called "Unlock." The temporary installation makes use of construction and recycled keys collected by residents and local business owners to form a canopy of dangling, flowing keys over the sidewalk.
This month will see two new installations, including "Kaleidoscope Eyes" which will feature a large-scale kaleidoscope. Visitors will also be able to check out "connect" where artists will create hundreds of spindles using a bicycle-powered lathe for a sculpture. Calgarians and local business owners will be invited to help paint and connect all the spindles.
Connect will be built between Aug. 11 and 17.
Tolsma noted the goal of the project goes far beyond an average public art piece.
"It's important to note that this is not a public art process, it's connected closely with construction," said Tolsma. "It's not to say there isn't art involved. But it's an attempt to have a creative solution to support businesses during construction."
The project was originally scheduled to take two years, but after concern from businesses, the project was revamped to take up less space. However, it will now take three to four years.
Tolsma said the city also sees this as an opportunity to test ways to support business during construction before work on the massive Green Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) begins.
Earlier this year Calgary City Council approved the full 46-kilometre alignment for the Green Line LRT project from 160 Avenue N to Seton, along with 28 new stations.
Officials are aiming to have shovels in the ground by 2020, with the first stage of construction complete by 2026.