With the ceremonial driving of the last spike in the national railway, Canada was finally united from coast to coast. However, vast empty tracts of arable land remained in the west. The Liberal government under Sir Wilfrid Laurier was determined to attract farmers to this area, to enhance Canada’s economic growth. He appointed Clifford Sifton who embarked on an ambitious campaign of encouraging immigration to the Canadian Prairies. With the promise of 160 acres of free land to farmers, Sifton’s initiatives succeeded in attracting many immigrants to the Canadian West during this first great wave of immigration from 1870 – 1930.
So began a more intensive populating of the area east of the bustling city of Calgary, in the Municipality of Shepard. Immigrants from America and eastern and central Europe homesteaded here, bringing with them a legacy of hard work. Skilled trades people, entrepreneurs and others came too, recognizing the need for their services that would be created by this increasing population.
The unincorporated hamlets of Forest Lawn, Albert Park and Hubalta appeared within the Municipality of Shepard around 1910 as small communities sprang up to support the surrounding agricultural families. A school, the one-room Bow River School, had already been constructed in 1904 at what is now known as 17 Avenue and 41 Street SE. The first class consisted of six pupils. Due to rapid growth a new, four-room school was constructed at 16 Avenue and 39 Street in 1912. It was again named “Bow River” and continued to serve the community until it was demolished in 1955 to make way for the new Patrick Airlie Elementary School. The first Bow River School was moved to Albert Park where it served as that communities first school. That building is still standing and is currently used as a church.
Real estate speculators from the United States attempted to take advantage of the boom times by buying up pieces of land and subdividing them into residential lots. When the lots did not sell due to lack of a rail link to Calgary, the speculators laid their own tracks from the Calgary City limits and promised the railroad would soon be coming. Of course this never happened. With the coming of World War I the area was in a serious economic depression and many of the lots reverted back to the Municipality of Shepard. Some twenty-five-foot lots which had previously sold for $300 were now sold for as low as $5.
Residents continued to come to the area, however. Early industries included tractor plants, a marmalade factory, mink farming, a chick hatchery, mixed farming and general stores. The hard times continued with the Great Depression of the 1930s. To take the burden off the Shepard Municipality, the Provincial government created the Village of Forest Lawn (which included Hubalta) and the Village of Albert Park. A year later they were amalgamated into the Village of Forest Lawn, under provincial control. In 1942 the province canceled all tax arrears and the bulk of the relief debt. By 1946 the Village of Forest Lawn felt confident enough to assume self-government.
In 1953 the Village of Forest Lawn received town status. Service organizations and sports teams abounded. Elk, Moose, Kinsmen and Lions Clubs were active in the community, as was Teen Town (a forerunner to the Boys and Girls Club). Residents participated on Town Council (the Mayor and the Councilors were not paid), the community association, school associations and church groups. Landowner David D Oughton donated land for the building of a much-needed school which was built in the Albert Park area in 1953. The burgeoning population of the Bow River School had been educated in several facilities including community halls, churches, and two unused WWII armories until a new elementary school was built. The new school was named for Patrick Airlie, who had served 37 years on the Bow River School Board and was instrumental in organizing the first library and community association in the area.
In 1953 the young town organized an annual sports day, which was soon changed to include a parade down 17 Avenue in which much of the community took part and showed their pride. The 1955 float “Forest Lawn – Town of the Future” was entered in the Calgary Stampede Parade and took first place. The town also had its own police force and voluntary fire department. In the late ˜50s an intensive public works program was begun which saw construction of sidewalks, curbs, gutters, storm sewers and other amenities. The town also operated its own power company and bus service into Calgary.
In 1958 the Town applied for city status, but this was never acted on. With its growing ties to the City of Calgary and political will which favoured centralization of Alberta’s two main metropolitan areas, the Town of Forest Lawn, with a population of 12,000, was annexed by the City of Calgary on December 30, 1961. The last mayor of Forest Lawn, Harry Akkerman, handed over the key to the town to Calgary Mayor Harry Hays, asking for a “square deal” for Forest Lawn.
Since then the communities of Forest Lawn and Albert Park have continued to welcome waves of immigrants reflecting changing conditions in countries around the world, including, Chinese, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Filipino, Hispanic and Sudanese. Many newer communities have also been established in the area once part of the Town of Forest Lawn.1
The communities of Albert Park and Forest Lawn celebrated 100 years in 2010. To recognize this occasion, the BRZ worked with residents to undertake several centennial projects including:
- Historical plaques at venues throughout the community.
- Albert Park celebrations and carnival
- A Homcoming celebration in conjunction with Albert Park and Forest Lawn community associations at the GlobalFest finale
- Tree planting thanks to City – Urban Forestry
Brief History & Highlights of International Avenue BRZ
By-Law 41M92: Establishment of Eastside17 BRZ passed by City Council
July 14, 1993
Name officially changed to International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone.
July 23, 1993
Office opens at 3012 17 Avenue SE
September 11, 1993
First International Avenue Parade and Festival held
1994 – 1995
– Community Pride Day- created by BRZ- May 1994, 1995, 1996 support from local elementary schools (3), churches and police
– Crime Prevention Program begins- initiative by Calgary Police and BRZ, All businesses set up on PACT, given workshops, info, and crime prevention info. Business block watch set up- results in crime lower by 50%
– Flag Clusters installed
– Traffic Signal installed, BRZ supports at 50 Street (TPP94-32)
– Calgary Folk Festival mini event held on 26 street park- sponsored by BRZ
– Retail Recruitment Program begins
– Summer market trial program launched
– Maintenance worker hired
– Begin work on street design options held open houses for community and businesses
– First attempt at angle parking defeated along 41 to 45 Streets
– BRZ joins with other businesses to create fair tax commission
– Canal Project- research begins
– Folk Festival mini event held on 26 street park- sponsored by BRZ
– Truck traffic Analysis of 17th Avenue SE report begins
-March – Interim Manager, Martin Keep replaces Alison for maternity leave
-Parade goes well, Stampede breakfast
August – Alison returns
– Nov. , 1996 -Open House determines; sidewalk improvement, pedestrian safety, traffic issues, cleaner store fronts, landscaping, reduction in truck traffic are issues to work on.
– Snowman contest/ undercover Santa
– Trees down center median planted in summer/ adopt a planter launched
April 1997- First Around the World in 26 Blocks Food Tour developed to rave reviews
May 1997 – Alison leaves new managers are hired – Connie Donoghue then Christine Forest
– summer market research undertaken
– parade and Stampede Breakfast
– Christmas promotion
Spring 1998- Alison returns to BRZ part-time
– establishment of Good Neighbor Award – designed to highlight the positives in the area included businesses and residents who received ad, certificate and flower bouquet.
– Lobbying for asphalt overlay
– June 1998- first Aldermanic Walk takes place along 40-47 Street
– September 1998-New shelters installed
– Mini park developed , phase one of Putting the Forest in Forest Lawn begins 150 trees planted(3 year project)
– phase two (Putting the Forest in Forest Lawn) tree planting project completed
– beginning to install site furniture
– Parade / stampede breakfast
– Watermain replacement begins
– Service road research and project begins to install angle parking and improve area.
– Membership Value Card Launched
2000 – 2002
– asphalt overlay begins
– phase three (putting Forest) tree project
– continued with site amenities installation,
– specialevents etc.,
– service road upgrade, steps and railing upgrade- 4200 street.
– second- Aldermanic Walk from 47 to 52 Streets
– Around the World Food tours continue
– Parade rained out
– Stampede breakfast
– mural one completed
– East Area Cultural Center Needs Assessment report completed
– Around the World food tours continue
– 36 Street trees planted
– mural two completed – Dance in the Minho by M. Correria
– Around the World continues featured in two page article in the Calgary Herald
– site amenities- newspaper stands, bike racks, benches
– expansion to include 9 blocks (85 businesses) to 61 Street passed for 2003 operating year (bylaw 38M2002 approved)
2003 – 2005
– GlobalFest and Fireworks successful/ BRZ solidifies location and community support
– mural three begins
– International Avenue Arts and Cultural Centre receives charitable status
– site amenities in new expansion area including trash receptacles and benches completed
– Mountain Bike Unit of Calgary Police Service launched
– update member discount card
– start work on security initiative/ EVDS partnership for 2004
– establishment of the Greater Forest Lawn Enhancement Fund to incorporate new sidewalks, corner cuts and other improvements short term
– Security Initiative pilot project completed
– Envisioning International Avenue- University of Calgary EVDS course launched
– Charrettes for vision for the Avenue completed.
– BRZ-installs 52 hanging flower baskets in area.
– third mural dedicated to the Vietnamese community created
– installed Around the World banners
– received Congress for New Urbanism Charter Award for IADI Charrette #1 document
– Executive Director receives Province of Alberta Centennial Medal
– developed a multi-staged implementation plan to revitalize the 50th Street east area
– Compete Charrette #2 Report
– conducted safety audits around 50th Street east area
– security initiative continues
– lots of positive media interest in area
– area chosen as number one place to invest in Alberta by Real Estate Investment Network
– Caribbean Mural unveiled
2006 – 2009
– installed more benches and site amenities, new sidewalks at 46 street and 47 blocks.
– 34 Street improvement completed with lighting and plantings and new concrete work
– redesigned Unity Park (3111 17 Ave SE)
– draft report of Safe Streets/ Safe Communities completed.
– Stream of Dreams mural project completed along 41 street
– last Greater Forest Lawn Parade takes place
– City of Calgary launches 17th Avenue Corridor study to put changes into place for IADI vision
– People and Place team- a co-operative venture by University of Calgary and BRZ complete a liner building plan/ review social issues
– International Avenue BRZ asked to be a representative on the Alberta’s Governments Crime Reduction and Safe Symposium and task force
– Safe Streets, Safe Cities: Safety and Community Building Strategy for Greater Forest Lawn Area report completed
– First meeting of Greater Forest Lawn Safety Council organized by and held in the BRZ office
– International financial publication, Financial TImes of London, writes about area as “Up and Coming”
– launch Around the World Gala for fundraising for International Avenue Arts and Culture Centre.
– launch free movie series called ” Movie on the Avenue”
– unveiled clock in centre median at 30 Street
– installed fountain at Unity park
– new sidewalks installed at 39 – 40 Streets
– BRT transit is started in area.
– installanit-graffiti wrap on all utility boxes of area
– first mixed use building started called Bella Casa located in 50 street east urban centre node.
– featured on Radio Canada International
– successfully lobby with IAACC for site on Avenue
– Received Safer Calgary award
– Launch of Southeast 17 Corridor Study in 2008
2010 – 2013
– successful completion and approval of Southeast 17 Corridor Study, possible CRL as funding source
– Murals five, six, seven, completed
– oversaw many centennial projects in the area
– hosted East Calgary Mayor Forum
– Partnered with Ward 9 Alderman to create Dover photo exhibit in BRZ businesses
– drew 1000’s to the Avenue for the Olympic Torch run
– continued to lobby for infrastructure funding- GreenTrip
– created art pop-ups on the Avenue/Market Collective invited to Avenue- Art BOX on 17E established at 1807 17 Avenue SE
– solidified land for the International Avenue Arts and Culture at 2601 17 Avenue SE and $10 Million MSI funding
– worked to improve a number of redevelopment sites including 5115 (Target/ Sobey’s), 4500 (Loblaw’s) and the Co-op site.
– lobbied to change a number of land uses
– partnered with REAP/ Naaco Food Truck to create four community orchards in GFL
– incorporated environmental sustainability principles
– partnered with Calgary Arts Development
– $98 million in transit and infrastructure upgrades funding confirmed through GreenTRIP (set for 2017)
– ArtBOX on 17E receives rave reviews
– launch of Calgary Police BEAT team
– lobbied to change a number of land uses and derelict sites
– working on antipoverty initiative
– other programs still on-going