Aerial view of West Eau Claire Park. (Klassen Photography)

This summer, Urban Land is profiling online and in print each finalist for 2020’s ULI Urban Open Space Award. The winner(s) will be announced in the fall. Learn more about award-winning and innovative open-space projects as part of the 2020 ULI Virtual Fall Meeting.

Owner: City of Calgary
Designer: O2 Planning + Design
Additional team members: Matrix Environmental, Thurber, Entuitive, SMP, Klohn Crippen Berger, Ion Irrigation, Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett, Cana Construction
Size: 16 acres (6.5 ha)
Opened: September 2018
Total cost: C$10 million (US$7.2 million)

West Eau Claire Park defines a new vision for a highly valued public space along the Bow River in Calgary. The park improves the public realm while implementing a critical component of the city’s flood resilience strategy through the construction of a flood barrier.

With designated pedestrian and bicycle paths, the new park and promenade make it easier for Calgary residents to walk and cycle through the Eau Claire neighborhood and into the downtown. The park was designed to be active and multimodal—part of a continuous, safe, and accessible riverfront that encourages year-round active lifestyles. It serves six neighboring communities and is an evening and weekend destination for people living outside the immediate area. Stakeholder-supported goals for the project included improving circulation and connectivity; supporting tourism, vibrancy, and river experiences; ensuring safety; and building resilience.

To protect mature trees located in a stretch of park requiring an almost 6.6-foot-tall (2 m) barrier, the team developed the Flood Bench. The iconic 728-foot-long (200 m) bench—part flood barrier and part gathering place—is a new social amenity. New passive and active spaces, including a river vista, access points, and a great lawn, enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the park. At the convergence of the park and the Santiago Calatrava–designed Peace Bridge is the Delta Garden, a new public plaza where raised planters with perennials create seating and define pedestrian circulation.

(West Eau Claire Park connects to the RiverWalk Urban Waterfront in Calgary, which was a ULI Urban Open Space Awards finalist in 2012.)

The project integrated flood mitigation in the design. (City of Calgary)

A perennial garden at one end of the Santiago Calatrava–designed Peace Bridge. (Cameron Hunter)

Bicycle and walking paths are a prominent feature of the park. (Mark Johnson Photos)

Planters and topography are elements of the flood-mitigation plan. (Matt Williams)

he 728-foot-long (200 m) Flood Bench—part flood barrier and part gathering place—also accommodates mature trees. (Cameron Hunter)