Stephen Avenue Vision, Concept Design and Streetscape Master Plan

Project information
2019 - 2023
Calgary, Alberta CAN
The City of Calgary

The Master Plan recognizes that revitalizing Stephen Avenue depends on re-activating public life through all possible means, the redesign of the public realm being just one.

CSLA Committee Award Statement
The Challenge

Addressing a decline in public life

Gehl kicked off this project in 2019 with a Public Space Public Life Study and a place-specific economic analysis, identifying public life gaps while highlighting the value creation of investing in Calgary’s public realm. The analysis found missing connections between key destinations along the Avenue and uneven public life patterns: active from 9-5 but sparse outside of office hours, leaving the Avenue feeling vacant and unwelcoming. 

These findings informed the project vision and roadmap that were developed to guide the transformation of Stephen Avenue. The roadmap includes goals and strategic moves, each tied to a set of quantifiable metrics to prioritize short and long-term investments. In addition, conceptual street designs were developed to jump-start the subsequent master plan process with public feedback. As the economic and cultural heart of the city, what happens Downtown has a direct impact on all Calgarians. As such, Downtown—and the Avenue—need to diversify in order to provide a more balanced mix of residential, office, retail, entertainment, tourism, and cultural offerings.

The Streetscape Master Plan is a cornerstone of Calgary's Downtown Strategy. It positions the Avenue for success in the face of immense changes on the horizon for Downtown.

The Impact

Action plan to master plan

Despite the paused redevelopment of Stephen Avenue due to the Pandemic, the City of Calgary set out to test some of the ideas proposed in the Action Plan. From 2021-2022, the City launched an empty storefront activation initiative, an ambassador program in partnership with the Calgary Downtown Association, and an “Activate + Experiment” program. “Activate + Experiment’ piloted temporary installations featuring experimental furniture, artistic programming, and creative wayfinding aimed at engaging the public in the project process and providing information about the permanent redesign.

In 2023, Gehl, Stantec, and the City of Calgary finalized the Streetscape Master Plan, taking the Action Plan from vision and concept into design. Drawing on engagement outcomes, the Master Plan translates Calgarians’ aspirations for Stephen Avenue into an actionable set of design moves that considers the current and future needs of the area. This functional plan unifies the thirteen blocks of Stephen Avenue with three street typologies. Each typology responds to its specific context, rebalancing modal hierarchies and transforming a multimodal neighborhood into a commercial and cultural hub that prioritizes pedestrians. Dedicated spaces throughout the length of the Avenue set the stage for a wide variety of public and commercial programming, allowing for daily and seasonal variation to extend the use of the Avenue into the evenings and winter months.

The design also accounts for multiple intersecting projects across downtown, knitting together the Greater Downtown Calgary Plan with Stephen Avenue as the primary connector of places and people in the downtown. Gehl and Stantec worked with city staff to create an implementation strategy that outlines a plan for ongoing operation and maintenance, as well as an activation and program plan that will help ensure the Avenue continues to support and drive vibrancy in Downtown Calgary. Underlying these strategies, is a new approach to collaboration across entities and interests, formulating that ‘the Avenue’s Success = Economic Investment + Mobility & Public Space Design + Stewardship, Operations & Maintenance.’ 

The Master Plan unlocks Stephen Avenue’s potential as a catalyst for change throughout Calgary’s historic urban core, supporting a strengthened downtown neighborhood and providing essential amenities for residents, visitors, and businesses through a first-class public realm.

For more information, visit the Stephen Ave website.

Phase one design moves aimed to reduce carbon dioxide, increase biodiversity, save energy, increase property values, provide community benefits, and reduce crime.

Street Typology

Shared Street

The design aims to enhance connections to and from the Plus 15 Walkway network. Implementing wayfinding signage that's both simple and clear improves navigation while serving as a gateway feature that strengthens the identity of the corridor.

A tree canopy can provide a wide range of benefits, including providing shade, enhancing aesthetics, mitigating urban heat, and reducing stormwater runoff. Large canopy trees on Stephen Ave can also serve as a consistent vertical design element, contributing to the Avenue's unique identity.

Street Typology


The multi-modal street is designed as a neighborhood-scale streetscape that balances two-way vehicular traffic with a people-focused public environment.

In addition to providing shade, enhancing aesthetics, and mitigating urban heat and reducing stormwater runoff, trees along these blocks will provide special moments of visual interest with ornamental flowering and fall foliage.

Street Typology

Transition Street

This block bridges the Shared Street and Multi-Modal Street with a mid-block transition from a two-way to one-way east-bound vehicular lane, guiding traffic off the Avenue before meeting the shared street.

More Information

Recent Updates

As of November 2023, Gehl is proud to share the completion of the Conceptual Streetscape Master Plan.

To celebrate this milestone, Gehl Director Sofie Kvist attended the Downtown Strategy Open House in Calgary, AB. At this event, Sofie was able to engage community members in a discussion about the importance of investing in quality public spaces across downtown, with Stephen Avenue as a key connector of people and places, to serve an increasingly growing and diverse community. We’re proud to share our contribution to Calgary’s community updates, with the next phase of Stephen Avenue, a flagship project for Calgary’s Downtown Strategy.

Product testing natural stone paver palette with the project team.

Get in touch

Want to know more about this project?

Partner, Head of Climate, Team Director US Enterprise & Corporations
Blaine Merker
Sofie Kvist
Project Manager
Rebecca Cook
Urban Designer
Aja Jeanty
Ramzy Bejjani
Marina Recio Rodriguez
Our services

Delivering impact through a multidisciplinary approach

Urban Strategy

Urban Strategy is the foundation upon which form, function and behaviour are created. Our holistic approach always starts with asking what life should exist in place, what spaces invite for that life, and what buildings and facilities support this. People and life first, always.

Public Life Data

Public Life Data, the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative information about how people use and engage with public spaces, uncovers the true picture of how design impacts behavior. Our teams use this collected analysis to develop strategies and plans that foster more equitable, healthy and climate-positive lifestyles.