PlanYourPlace: a geospatial cyber-infrastructure for sustainable community planning

Funding: GEOIDE TSII and the Neptis Foundation



PlanYourPlace: a geospatial cyber-infrastructure for sustainable community planning is an interdisciplinary project that proposes to build an open source structure of modern web-based tools to support planning practice that engages communities. The vehicle for the development of these tools is the “middle ring” of Calgary neighbourhoods that were constructed during the 1950s to 1970s and that are currently experiencing redevelopment pressures. To address some of the impediments to transitioning Calgary’s Middle Ring to greater sustainability, we will develop several tools that will consider: increases to density, modifications to townscape types (distinct lot + building combinations) or development of new ones, changes to land uses and spatial structure, and consideration of commercial/gas station intersections for redevelopment potential.

The project team is a collaboration between the Urban Lab and colleagues in Geomatics Engineering and Civil Engineering at the University of Calgary and University of Toronto.


St. Mary’s University Campus Site Planning Project

Client: St. Mary’s University College


 This project is providing direction for the future growth of the campus to accommodate anticipated doubling of student numbers and to enhance student life and the appeal of the campus. The intent is to develop a plan and design guidelines that will address space and public realm needs and that will provide a long term vision for student, alumni and donor engagement. The Urban Lab is working closely with a Site Planning Committee on a process that includes a historic evolution analysis, townscape analysis, development of principles for development, and conceptual plans. 




Transitioning Calgary's Middle Ring: Sustainability Concepts Pilot Project

Client: the City of Calgary through the Urban Alliance (a collaboration between the City of Calgary and University of Calgary)

Calgary's "middle ring" - a broad band of neighbourhoods developed between the 1950s and 1970s - is poised to experience increasing pressures of redevelopment as they are seen to offer proximity to the downtown employment centre, positive qualities of urbanity including mature street trees, block patterns that are generally more walkable than the outermost ring of suburbs, and access to services and amenities. There is an opportunity to guide redevelopment so that it is coherent with the aspirations of the City of Calgary's Municipal Development Plan that is emphasizing higher densities, more compact development, greater mix of uses, and other qualities of greater sustainability. In order to progress towards the answers to these questions, a smaller sub-project - this Middle Ring Pilot Project - was completed. It includes issues and concerns, best practices and precedents, case study examples, research on economic and market issues, development of example "townscape types" (distinct lot + building combinations that are appropriate to a redeveloping neighbourhood, and initial strategies.










EcoEUFORIA (Economic Evaluation of Using Urban Form to Increase Activity)

Independent Research
Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research
In collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine and The Faculty of Kinesiology
In progress 


The goal of this three year project is to determine the economic implications of improving urban form to support physical activity. Several aspects will be studied: activity patterns of residents will be determined by survey, measures of walkability and other parameters of urban form will be documented and analyzed through mapping and fieldwork (including reconnaissance on foot/bicycle of all 230 Calgary neighbourhoods), and the costs of modifying various aspects of the urban form will be calculated. This research will establish the cost of retrofitting and improving Calgary’s neighbourhoods and will have implications for public health.



Urban Form and Social Connectivity: what is the relationship?
Client: The Urban Alliance - City of Calgary

This project aims to understand the relationship between urban form and social connectivity. Fourteen Calgary neighbourhoods representing different eras of development were analyzed in terms of various morphological and qualitative attributes, and several measures of social connectivity were analyzed by surveys and interviews. This research will contribute to the understanding of what makes “good” neighbourhood form that supports social connectivity.




Red Deer County Open Space Master Plan

Client: Red Deer County 
In collaboration with Dillon Consulting Ltd. 

Merit Award - Alberta Professional Planners Institute
Regional Citation Award - Canadian Society of Landscape Architects 
Award of Excellence for Parks and Open Space Design - Recreation for LifeFoundation  

This innovative project is a comprehensive approach to providingan open space plan for a large central Alberta county. Over the course ofseveral years, the Urban Lab, in collaboration with Dillon Consulting,completed a multi-phase planning document. This work consisted of an physicalinventory of all County-owned open spaces, consultation with residents,documentation of cultural landscapes, and assessment of issues andopportunities. Various project zones were identified for more detailed study,and comprehensive plans for specific inter-related projects and paths weredeveloped. This project involved the development of a  comprehensivedatabase for the County, design of a working typology of open spaces, variousgraphic tools for illustrating the project areas, development of policies and implementation strategies. 



Medicine River Valley Area Structure Plan
Client: Red Deer County

The Medicine River Valley is under growing pressure for conversion from traditional large parcel agriculture to small parcel specialty agriculture, hobby farm uses, and the increasing demand for country residential development. This innovative plan provided a coordinated approach to preservation and encouragement of agricultural uses, the conservation of natural capital, the development of compatible recreational and tourism uses, and the associated development of well-sited rural residential neighbourhoods.




Benalto Area Redevelopment Plan
Client: Red Deer County
National Honour Award - Canadian Society of Landscape Architects 

Benalto is a small hamlet located west of Sylvan Lake in Central Alberta. It has a traditional railway town form, however with obsolescence of the railway and related infrastructure, the structure and function of the town have changed. The proximity of Benalto to Sylvan Lake and the City of Red Deer make it desirable as a place to live that combines small town living with big city convenience, and the hamlet is being identified as an area likely to experience growth. The population of the town and region is now composed of a diverse mix, including many artists and artisans in addition to the original agricultural community, and there is the expectation that as the hamlet evolves, it will retain its small town character and qualities and offer economic opportunities and a high quality of life.



Killarney - Glengarry Neighbourhood Study
Client: Killarney-Glengarry Community Association

The neighbourhood of Killarney-Glengarry is going through changes in its urban fabric  due to pressure from redevelopment and a generational change. Current redevelopment trends are expected to continue as this neighbourhood becomes more attractive as an inner city community. Subdivision and infill will dramatically change the character and identity of Killarney-Glengarry, and the Community Association is interested in strategies that will assist them in managing growth and change. In the absence of a current City of Calgary Area Redevelopment Plan for Killarney-Glengarry, this project was conceived as a means of helping to define the issues and outline some alternatives for future planning.

This document is the result of some preliminary analysis and background studies that should provide a  base for additional work. The research for this background document was funded by the Killarney-Glengarry Community Association and the Calgary Board of Education.



Springbrook and Gasoline Alley Area Structure Plan
Client: Red Deer County

This project looks at innovative approaches to the planning and development of high quality, sustainable townscapes and landscapes in Red Deer County. The design process is based upon a comprehensive analysis of the region’s landscape called ‘townscape analysis’, which helps us to set out principles and guidelines for development in the area. The project included development of neighbourhood plans and streetscape guidelines.




Pine Lake Area Structure Plan
Client: Red Deer County

Pine Lake is a popular destination in central Alberta. There is an increasing demand for recreational and seasonal properties in the area which require additional land and necessitate an up-to-date land use plan. The project approach applied an ecological-environmental planning process identifying areas suitable for development and providing a structure for future growth that would be sustainable and in keeping with the area’s character.




Mustard Seed
Client: Mustard Seed

In May 2004, as a result of discussions initiated by the Victoria Crossing BRZ with various organizations and agencies, a project dealing with the urban revitalization of the Centre Street South area and Mustard Seed expansion and public space developments was developed. The Urban Lab developed conceptual plans that would address the spatial and functional needs of the Mustard Seed, and improve the streetscape and public spaces of the adjacent streets and lanes. This project began as a pro bono contract fulfilling the Urban Lab’s role as a community outreach group of the University of Calgary.



The Calgary Project
Independent Research
Funding: ENMAX Power and University of Calgary
National Honour Award - Canadian Society of Landscape Architects

Since 2000, many Urban Lab projects have contributed to the development of a book publication on Calgary Urban form. A 3D computer model of the downtown and surrounding area was built, and several analytical techniques were developed.



University of Calgary Campus Analysis and Planning
Client: Campus Infrastructure, University of Calgary

Throughout the University of Calgary’s brief history, both the academic mission and the physical campus have evolved in response to changing needs, values and opportunities. A series of academic plans with the supporting campus plans have directed campus development. The most recent campus plan is the Campus Community Plan (2001). It was prepared in response to the academic direction at the time and many of the principles and conceptual directions are no longer relevant or current. This project has been a collaboration with Campus Infrastructure in developing a tridimensional virtual model of the campus and an analysis to lay the ground for the development of a future Campus Master Plan.


Sense of Place: a series of events celebrating Alberta’s Centennial
Client: Nickle Arts Museum, University of Calgary
National Honour Award  - Canadian Society of Landscape Architects
Place Planning Award  - Environmental Design Research Association
Calgary Heritage Lion Award (Education) - Calgary Heritage Authority

As a means of celebrating the centennial of the Province of Alberta a series of events and exhibitions was conceived. Working with The Nickle Arts Museum, the Urban Lab took a lead role in design of the exhibition, editing and graphic design of two publications, and a series of excursions into the cultural landscapes of Alberta.



Joffre Bridge Sustainable Development Analysis
Client: Red Deer County

This project arose in response to development pressure in the area. The purpose of the sustainable development analysis was to identify areas where development was suitable and what form should it take. The Townscape Analysis methodology was employed which consists of understanding various ‘layers’ including environment, cultural heritage, existing land use and infrastructure.


Varsity Courts Family Housing
Client: Residence Services, University of Calgary

This project required an integrated approach to understanding issues related to Varsity Courts as well as to a general campus major entry, and also to the interface with the City of Calgary public realm. It involved consideration of enclosure, safety and privacy, sound attenuation, entries (campus and Varsity Courts) and general site planning and landscape design related to the western edges of Varsity Courts.

Town of High River Open Space Plan Client: Town of High River
Regional Merit Award – Canadian Society of Landscape Architects 2003

This project was commissioned by the Town of High River in response to a proposal put forward by the High River Green Space Committee, a volunteer group concerned with preserving and improving the quantity and quality of public open space in this town, located 30 minutes south of Calgary. This innovative Open Space Plan considers streets, parks and other public spaces as the infrastructure of the public realm, and builds on the relationship between the town and its river.







Beltline Urban Forest Inventory and Analysis

Client: Beltline Community Association

Funding: Alberta Lotteries Board and Connaught Community Association


Awards: Regional Citation, Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, 2002


The Connaught Community Association Inner City Forest Committee and the Urban Lab collaborated in 2001 to prepare an urban forest inventory and report. The Lab conducted a short workshop with community volunteers on basic tree biology and street tree identification, who then completed the inventory. This material was then digitized, and mapped. As well, analysis of street types and suitability for street tree planting was completed. The report includes the complete inventory, plus recommendations and strategies for developing a healthy and complete urban forest. The complete report is posted on the Beltline Community Association website


Cliff Bungalow - Mission Townscape and Process 
Client: Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association
Funding: Calgary Foundation Neighbourhood Grants Program
National Merit Award and Regional Honour Award - Canadian Society of Landscape Architects

This community design project arose in response to the City’s interest in searching for an alternative to the Area Redevelopment Plan process currently utilized in planning established communities. This project illustrates a comprehensive methodology for documenting and analyzing the neighbourhood, and provides a set of tools for residents, planners, developers, architects and others involved in the  community development process. It is not a fixed and final ‘plan’, but is a working document that will evolve with the community.


Calgary Cultural District - A Framework for the Future
Client: Calgary Cultural District Partnership
Regional Citation Award - Canadian Society of Landscape Architects


This urban design project introduced district identification measures and structural changes to strengthen the image and function of the Cultural District as a distinct neighbourhood within which  the best of Calgary’s public life and cultural expression can be found. The project proposed strategies and interventions at various scales from the downtown to the street. A particular challenge was to develop a common framework for the diverse interests of the client group, and the unanimous positive response to the document indicates its success.