Calgary aims to make Plus-15 pedestrian network easier to navigate

Snaking through the downtown core, the Plus-15 system can be hard to maneuver, something the City of Calgary hopes to fix. Adam MacVicar reports.

Snaking through skyscrapers across the city’s downtown core, the Plus-15 network has been a walkway for thousands of Calgarians; but it can be challenging to navigate.

The City of Calgary has just wrapped public engagement on a new wayfinding strategy, to make it easier to get around when people ultimately return to the downtown core.

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“We know that currently the Plus-15 is difficult to navigate, particularly for new Calgarians, for visitors to Calgary, anyone who doesn’t go downtown every day,” project manager Jennifer Black said.

“Effective wayfinding contributes to a sense of well being safety, security and accessibility.”

The city’s engagement process, in which 175 people took part, will inform administration to develop a wayfinding strategy. The strategy could include signage, guides to amenities, a map of the network and possibly an app, the city said.

A report on the wayfinding strategy engagement is expected to be presented to city councillors at the end of May.

The Plus-15 network, named because it was built 15 feet above city streets, is 16 kilometres long and includes 86 bridges throughout the core. It was conceived in the late 1960s by Harold Hanen, who worked for the Calgary Planning Department.

The area councillor said it is time to take a new direction with the network.

“The Plus-15 was envisioned as bridges that connect great spaces. I’m not sure if they’ve fulfilled that function,” Ward 7 city councillor Druh Farrell told Global News.

“The wayfinding and making it easier to navigate the system is critically important; the system also needs to be accessible.”

According to city officials, the wayfinding strategy is one piece of an overall policy update for the network, which was developed in 1984.

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The policy update is expected to address issues like security, safety, dead-ends and a standardized hours of operation.

“We want it to be accessible, we want it to be comfortable, inspiring and beautiful, whenever possible,” Farrell said.

Accessibility is key for several businesses that occupy the network; many have had to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marcello’s sits at an intersection in the system within the Suncor building off Centre Street, and the lack of foot traffic has cost it 97 per cent of its regular business.

“Our whole business is surrounded by foot traffic,” Marcello’s owner Brian Baici said.

“We pay a premium rent to be in the dense foot traffic and it’s not here.”

Prior to COVID-19, between 10,000 and 20,000 people would use the network everyday.

The city said the network is worth around $550 million.

“Restaurants, retail, doctors, we have a dentist next to us here,” Baici said. “It’s almost like a little city up here.”

City officials said a revamp to the pedway system will be an important piece of the overall downtown recovery.

“We just want more people coming downtown and exploring by foot and frequenting those businesses and supporting those local Calgary businesses,” Black said.

More on the complete update to the Plus-15 strategy is expected in June.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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