I think the differences in design shows how much mindsets (of developers, administrators and the public) have changed since 1980s Eau Claire and 2019 East Village. In the 1980s, a quasi-urban/suburban mall in the city centre was the hot idea. You see this with Eau Claire being set far back from the river and all the gated townhomes that could be plopped from anywhere, without a nod to the fact the river is right there. None of 1980s-era Eau Claire elevated the pathway beyond a nice thing to have but not worth changing designs over. The attractive qualities of the location never referenced the pathway system. To be fair to the folks before us, it would have been hard for developers and the public to make the call and focus development on the pathway too much: the pathway system wasn't nearly as complete as it is today nor ingrained in Calgary's psyche. INner city lifestyle wasn't much of a thing with declining population and auto-centric everything being in vogue. Much of the eastern section of the pathway (e.g. where M2 and East Village is) only came together in the late 1970s not to mention countless network/park quality improvements all over the place.I really like the way this interfaces the river pathway, I wish we had more of this in places like Eau Claire.
I always thought the river pathway doesn't get enough credit for it's role in the city's evolution. It's helped immeasurable to create a more connected, pedestrian-focused and urban place. Despite all our auto-centric growth and missing connections - something that gets repeated attention in media etc. - the backbone of a high-quality, mostly grade-separated and highly connected river pathways system is one of Calgary's most important urban assets. I am glad developers are recognizing this with more intentional design choices like M2. I expect much more similar development to come in future years as well as with the recent and significant park/pathway bylaw changes being proposed.
To think that decades ago, there was serious discussion about re-routing the rail lines from inner city/downtown to along the river to connect with the portion that already does run along the river, west of the city. Thank goodness that did not happen.I agree. One of the nice trade-offs of Calgary not having much 19th century architecture or pedestrian-centred neighborhoods, is that we also didn't get much industrialization of our riverfront. Almost every other urban river in North America is basically a concrete trench filled with murky, polluted water that supports almost no life.