CANMORE – Publicly owned and undeveloped lands along Palliser Trail represent the biggest asset for future affordable housing regardless of a 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bid.
Canmore Community Housing Corporation, Alberta Seniors and Housing, and the Town of Canmore each own parcels of land along Palliser Trail. There are also privately held lands that are undeveloped, specifically the New Life Christian Centre and three lots for employee housing owned by Stonecreek Properties, the developer of Silvertip.
The entire area has yet to undergo an overarching development planning process, but Town of Canmore Chief Administrative Officer Lisa de Soto said it will, whether or not a bid for the Games happens.
“That is (the municipality’s) largest chunk of land owned by Canmore Community Housing Corporation and since the flood we have been working through identifying flood hazard and risks of construction there,” de Soto said. “Our intent moving forward, whether the Olympics come or not, is to make those lands developable.”
Stonecreek Resorts’ overarching planning document directs the municipality to engage in an area structure plan for the Palliser lands before the company embarks on developing employee housing on its three parcels along Palliser Trail.
But de Soto said the municipality could also begin that process in light of the fact an athletes’ village is being considered for the CCHC-owned parcel as part of a 2026 draft hosting plan released earlier this month by Calgary 2026. The parcel owned by CCHC, a municipally-owned housing corporation, is the biggest piece of land in its inventory.
“As part of the next three-year business plan cycle, Olympics or not, that is the major landholding CCHC has,” de Soto said. “We know there is interest to do an area structure plan process for those lands … whether CCHC leads it or the Town leads it, the next three year term would be an appropriate time to undertake it.”
General manager of municipal infrastructure Michael Fark said the Town is also beginning discussions with Alberta Seniors and Housing to potentially acquire its lands along Palliser Trail and pointed out the municipality could also look to use lands next to the cemetery and Holiday Inn it owns.
“This is one of the main reasons administration is recommending a pause to look at the housing needs assessment and update the comprehensive housing action plan,” Fark said. “There are a lot of things that are going to happen very quickly and we will start to be able to measure the impact in the market.”
Meanwhile, the municipality has been working to assess the hazard and risk from Stoneworks Creek, which cuts through the entire area. The creek saw flood protection installed in the spring of 2013, however, when the June 18 rainstorm hit the community, it was completely washed away.
The mitigation at the time was inadequate for what Canmore would come to understand are the debris flood and flow potential of the watershed. A debris flood or flow contains higher percentages of rocks and debris than just an overland flood.
According to de Soto, the hazard and risk assessment process had proceeded to flood mitigation design to create a berm on the east side of the creek to protect existing development – a 94 unit condo development and 60 units of CCHC perpetually affordable rental housing – at a cost of $3.7 million. The mitigation also protects lands on the other side of the Trans-Canada Highway, which were affected by the 2013 flood of Stoneworks.
“It has been designed and is ready to be installed. We are waiting for (grant) funding,” de Soto said.
To extend the creek’s mitigation to protect future development on the CCHC lands, whether it is an Olympic village or not, would cost an additional $2 million, added de Soto.
The mitigation, however, would also protect the Stonecreek lands, and the New Life property. As a result, only a portion of the $2 million has been included in initial cost estimates for a possible $116 million Olympic athletes’ village. That kind of development could also be subject to a potential off site levy model, which would be determined through an overarching planning process for the area.
“When we were calculating the total cost for the athletes’ village, we took a look at this specific property to be developed and only applied a portion of that $2 million in flood mitigation that would be attributable to that project,” de Soto said.
Out of the total $116 million pricetag for a 1,000-bed village to house athletes for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Canmore would contribute $10 million. Of that, $6 million represents the land value for the site, and $630,000 is for flood mitigation.
When an area structure plan process is initiated for the entire area, de Soto said it could lead to offsite levies for private landowners in the future to contribute to the flood mitigation once they develop.
A similar calculation was made for the future pedestrian overpass currently being designed for the Palliser area. Given increasing residential densities along the roadway and the common occurrence of people dashing across the four-lane Trans-Canada Highway on a daily basis, the Town of Canmore began a design process this year for a pedestrian overpass.
An early estimate for a pedestrian bridge is $5 million and manager of engineering services Andy Esarte said that although there isn’t an approved capital project as of yet, administration has been looking at high level concept plans.
“We need to start thinking about that design and talking with Alberta Transportation and looking at available funding sources,” Esarte said. “The first step is to develop some concepts and look at what alignments might be.
“We are hoping to be able to take that out at a high level concept plan to inform budgets and future decisions.”