Bob van Wegen is executive director of the Marda Loop BRZ.
You’re talking to prospective businesses thinking of establishing a presence in Marda Loop. What would you tell them are the key reasons they should?
Van Wegen: Marda Loop is booming. We’re like a town centre in the heart of southwest Calgary, right on the urban-suburban border with great access from both Crowchild Trail and downtown.
We have a growing population in walking distance to the business district with lots of young and mid-career professionals and families, but it’s a mixed population with many students and seniors, too.
People love living in Marda Loop – it has a great community feel and it’s a great place to do business, too.
What are the biggest issues and challenges facing the neighbourhood today?
Van Wegen: There’s a lot of construction and that translates into a lot of road closures. Development is bringing more people, shops and amenities to Marda Loop – that’s great but the process can be aggravating.
In just the last three years, seven major projects have been completed or are currently under construction, and number eight was just approved by city council. These are mid-rise commercial, residential and mixed-use projects with hundreds of residential units and tens of thousands of square feet of commercial space.
What changes do you foresee in Marda Loop in the coming years?
Van Wegen: With all this private development, we need serious investment in the public realm – roads, sidewalks, crosswalks, trees, lighting and so on. We’re part of the Main Streets program, our plan is almost completed, and we’re looking for implementation funding at city council in the upcoming budget cycle.
Our public realm is beat up and hasn’t been improved in many years – I’m only half-joking when I say I don’t think I have more than 10 metres of sidewalk that look the same, or more than five matching lamp-posts.
Also, the opening of cSpace King Edward adds an arts element that I think will definitely influence Marda Loop in years to come.
Is there any type of business you would like to see in Marda Loop that’s not already there?
Van Wegen: We’re always interested in more unique retailers to help build the shopping experience. But people most often tell me that they would love to see more family restaurants in the area, and also “marquee” restaurants for a night out.
We have some great places to eat and drink – but we could use more places where you can take the kids, and high-quality restaurants for an evening out, too.
I look at the examples of Notable in Montgomery, or the places opening in Britannia – a similar inner suburban location. If you have an interesting idea you want to bring to Marda Loop, give me a call.
Can you explain what the role of the BIA (business improvement area) is?
Van Wegen: The short answer is that BIAs work to improve, promote and enliven the business district.
We recently worked with artists to do new street banners and to wrap our big concrete planters with art. We brought Beakerhead to Marda Loop this year, and again hosted the Marda Gras Street Festival.
On a regular basis, we work to market the area through advertising, social media, business promotions and so on.
We also invest in keeping the area clean and removing graffiti.
We also work with developers, the city and local communities on development issues and things like the Main Streets initiative that are crucial to making Marda Loop an attractive and walkable place to live, work, shop and play.
– Mario Toneguzzi