Students urged to help reimagine downtown places through Sketch Mob

Sketch Mob Photo

Downtown West has always been a great choice for students wanting to live in Calgary’s city centre. It’s packed with apartments and condos, a quick walk from the restaurant and nightlife scenes of the Beltline and 17 Avenue, and a quick train or bus trip away from Calgary’s post-secondary campuses.

Ian Hernandez is one of those students who calls the Downtown West home and along with some of his fellow University of Calgary students, he wants to empower students and young people to imagine what the future of their downtown neighbourhood could look like. This has led to the inaugural Sketch Mob on Saturday, Jan. 28, where students and Calgarians have the opportunity to hit the streets of Downtown West and put pencil to paper to re-imagine the future of public spaces in the community.

“Sketch Mob is about empowering student and youth voices to take an active role in the future of their downtown and in how their downtown community is planned,” said Hernandez, who leads the Urban Calgary Students Association. “A lot of students live or visit downtown and it’s important that they have a stake in its future.”

So what is Sketch Mob? It’s an opportunity for groups of young Calgarians to head out into the community and re-imagine public spaces through sketching, group discussion, exploring and creative thinking. The inaugural Sketch Mob is focusing on three locations in Downtown West:

·       11 Street S.W., between 6 Avenue S.W. and 9 Avenue S.W.

·       10 Street S.W., between 6 Avenue S.W. and 9 Avenue S.W.

·       6 Avenue S.W. and 4 Street S.W.

“A strong downtown should be welcoming to people of all ages, especially our future workforce. Supporting Sketch Mob and seeing youth re-imagine underutilized public spaces in our downtown is a chance to see what matters and what could be possible,” said Kate Zago, Planner for The City of Calgary. “Student voices need to be prioritized when it comes to thinking about downtown revitalization, as they have often unheard perspective on urban planning, public space development, and transportation planning.”

One way The City is supporting students has been through hosting a test run of Sketch Mob. Our Innovation Lab operates a monthly Tiger Team to nudge interesting opportunities towards fruition. In January, this group welcomed Ian Hernandez (president) and his colleagues with the UofC Urban Calgary Students Association to help get Sketch Mob off the ground. Sketch Mob also aligns with the vision of our Downtown Strategy – to elevate student voices in downtown’s future and create more vibrant neighbourhood’s downtown for all Calgarians.

Sketch Mob will be kicking off at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28 starting from City Hall’s Innovation Lab which is part of the main atrium. All Calgarians are invited to attend. Participants will then break off in groups and head out to the sketching sites, where they will discuss what they see, how the spaces are used and how improvements could be made. Then they will get to work on their sketches of the public spaces.

“Public spaces are not static and we want young people to view them in that light,” said Hernandez. “Downtown public spaces are constantly evolving and Sketch Mob lets young people look at these places in a different light and take ownership of the future of their neighbourhood.”

The completed sketches will be shared online and displayed at the Central Public Library in 2023.