From a street-level, Balmoral Circus looks like an ordinary city park. But if you see it from an aerial view, it's anything but.
The circus, at the intersection of Second Street and 19th Avenue N.W., started out as a quiet suburban intersection in the early 1900s and resembles four slices of pie that join to form a circle.
It opened Monday after a phased, three-year transformation that returned the space to its form of the 1930s — as a park for the surrounding community.
The project began three years ago, when Balmoral Circus was closed to vehicles, turning the entire area within the circle into park space.
Britney Woods is a project manager with the City of Calgary. (Dave Gilson/CBC)
A year later, in 2021, the city collected feedback from residents to help create the final design. Construction for that redevelopment began last fall.
The $2.6-million project is intended to create a quiet outdoor space for community members, reduce on-street parking and retain vehicle access to all homes.
"It is a dense community, it's established, so there's not a lot of opportunity to introduce new park space," said Britney Woods, a project manager with the City of Calgary.
"I'm very excited that the park space will be providing the community with more green space for them to use."
Balmoral Circus was a byproduct of a push for social order and civic harmony — and the leftovers of urban planning's City Beautiful movement in the 1930s — cultivated by then-city parks superintendent William Reader.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 annuals were planted each year. By the end of the decade, that number had climbed to over 5,000.
The newly opened park includes a lawn space for passive recreation, a paved surface for play and activities, a north-south pathway through the park with new trees and plantings and fixed and moveable seating and tables.
It's a welcome addition for Lauren Harms, a resident of the area who lives five blocks north of Balmoral Circus.
Even before it was built, she said, the space was used by everyone in the area. Harms said it's safer and more accessible now, which adds to the appeal of the park for people like her who walk or cycle often.
Balmoral Circus as seen in 1959. (City of Calgary)
"I love it. It's the short-walk destination for me. I can sit here and meet friends," she said.
"I love that it's a quieter street now for biking. Coming through Balmoral Circus is such a treat."
Harms said she is hopeful that more green spaces, like the newly opened park in her neighbourhood, pop up around the city for people who live in urban environments.