The firms that will design Olympic Plaza's transformation in downtown Calgary were announced Thursday.
Located along Macleod Trail S.E. between Seventh and Eighth avenues, the plaza was constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics' medal ceremonies.
Now, after 35 years, the public space "is aging and has outgrown its mandate and lifecycle costs," according to the City of Calgary's web page for the project.
The Olympic Plaza overhaul was unveiled in June when the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) announced a "competitive" request for proposal (RFP) process to find a team for the project.
The City of Calgary's 2023-26 budget has earmarked $40 million for project initiation costs associated with the revamp.
It's part of $108 million the city is spending on downtown revitalization initiatives.
During a press conference at Olympic Plaza on Thursday, CMLC president Kate Thompson said three firms have now been chosen to form the design team for plaza's transformation.
They are: Toronto-based gh3 Architecture, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, Montreal-based CCxA Landscape Architecture and Urban Design and Montreal-based Belleville Placemaking.
The city and CMLC are moving ahead with a plan for a major overhaul of Calgary's Olympic Plaza, in conjunction with ongoing work to upgrade the adjacent Arts Commons. (CMLC)
"We are excited to collaborate with CMLC, Arts Commons and The City of Calgary to ensure Olympic Plaza will have a transformational impact on the city as well as on people's daily lives," Pat Hanson, principal of gh3, said in a release.
"Drawing from our deep experience in the design and activation of outdoor public spaces, our uniquely experienced team of specialized experts are excited to realize a new future for Olympic Plaza."
CMLC says the redesign of the plaza will be coordinated with the $480-million overhaul of the adjacent Arts Commons to enable design synergies between the two projects.
"Alongside experts in engineering, lighting design, accessibility, and acoustic and theatre design, the team will create a modern and inclusive outdoor event and gathering space that will have a seamless connection to Arts Commons and will cultivate a holistic, organic flow between the campus' indoor and outdoor spaces," CMLC said in its release.
In an interview with CBC News after the press conference, Thompson said the plaza holds a lot of "embedded meaning" for Calgarians.
The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation is the development manager for the plaza project. CMLC president and CEO Kate Thompson hopes the transformation will activate the space. (Dave Gilson/CBC)
"When you're looking at what we can do with Olympic Plaza, we knew it wasn't just about the physical space, but it was really about how we're going to activate the space," she said.
Hanson says the location played a role in why the architecture and urban design team was attracted to the project. She says Calgary is an "interesting city," but the synergy between Olympic Plaza and the Arts Commons project is particularly interesting.
gh3 principal Pat Hanson is looking forward to the synergy between Olympic Plaza and Arts Commons' transformations. (Dave Gilson/CBC)
"It needs to be a design that is accessible, open … that allows for multiple types of activities to take place," Hanson said.
The plaza redesign process will go through 2024.
CMLC said construction timelines will be determined as the project progresses and funding is finalized. Once the project is completed, Arts Commons will act as the steward of the revitalized plaza and will manage the programming and maintenance of the new space.