Arlington Group Developments is Bullish on Calgary’s 17th Avenue as it Completes Latest Retail Project: Interview

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Calgary-based Arlington Group is bullish on the city’s 17th Avenue S.W. high street area and its latest project there is The Fifth – destined to be a residential and retail destination just off the downtown core.

Frank L Lonardelli. Photo: LinkedIn

Frank Lonardelli, Founder/CEO of Arlington, said the project was started four months after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

The building has 12,500 square feet of main floor retail space and 52 rental apartments above in the five-storey building.

“What’s noteworthy, given all the negativity around retail, what happened was when people saw the sign go up they kind of sat back and said ‘well I’m not sure these guys are going to build the building’. So we didn’t get a whole heck of a lot of traction,” said Lonardelli. “And the second we came out of the ground and we completed the main floor podium at 16 feet with concrete, people just started calling saying ‘holy cow you guys are actually doing this thing’.

“Of the almost 13,000 square feet of retail, we got 46,000 square feet of applicants. We just told everybody we were going to take all the applications in and the closer we get to summer and the completion of the actual structure we’re going to start making decisions of who we’re going to work with.

Rendering of the Scotia Block at 1429 17 Avenue SW, via Arlington Group
The Fifth, Rendering via Arlington Group
Royal Park, located across from Mount Royal Village on 17 Avenue. Rendering: Arlington Group

“It is exactly what we wanted which was individual curated retail. Ideally super local but we were okay with strong regional. No national. We’re  super happy with what we received and we’re super happy with what we’ve landed on. I think it’s the perfect mix for this area. There’s a lot of vibrancy towards it. People are really excited.”

The businesses include Bro’s To Go, Nue Cocktail Bar, Cinnaholic, The Mash, Burnin Bird and Amato Gelato with a flagship store.

Lonardelli said Amato Gelato is going to have the largest patio on 17th Avenue with about 50 seats.

Timeline for opening is expected to be around September 1.

“They’re all very much complimentary to what’s happening on the street and we’re super happy about that. This will be the first mixed-use development that has been built in the last 20 years on 17th Avenue,” said Lonardelli.

High Street on 17th, rendering via Arlington Group
The Windsor, rendering via Arlington Group

“If you look at pedestrian traffic in any centre or any section within the centre of Calgary – Beltline or Downtown – there’s more people walking through or driving past this intersection in the urban marketplace than anywhere else in Canada. We were looking for unique curated opportunities but we were also looking for people who wanted to expand their business.

“It also flows into their urban vibe for these businesses. They’re not interested in doing power centres in the suburban market because they’ve already got their concepts in those areas. So as they think about growing their businesses, their businesses are going to be urban centric. It just so happens, we think and they think, the best urban location they’ve got.”

Despite all the negativity surrounding retail throughout COVID, Lonardelli said Arlington has 100 per cent occupancy on all of its retail space along 17th Avenue.

“17th Avenue has always been a place to do curated retail for strong local or regional players,” he said. “A lot of the negativity around 17th had a lot to do with tenants going into leases they never should have gone into and landlords charging prices they should never have gone into and that’s a fatal combination.”

High Street. Photo: Arlington Group Calgary

Lonardelli said Arlington’s 17th Avenue project has 42 separate buildings that it owns with eight different development sites. The first three developments have been started or completed. The National building was the first. Then came The Fifth. The third is the Fishman’s development site. Another site is further west on 17th where the Buon Giorno restaurant is located. The entire 17th Avenue project will be completed with a site on the corner at 14th Street. All the mixed-use developments will include retail as the anchor.

“I think anything in the urban market in a high profile location requires the main floor to be retail anchored for two reasons. Number one it’s the live, work, play concept of rolling in these developments and getting closer to the urbanized landscapes of Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal,” said Lonardelli. “We’re just so far behind everybody.

“Number two is there’s two amenities when you live here. The first amenity is when you go down the elevator shaft and go to the main floor podium you can get your coffee, you can get your ice cream, you can get your cocktail. It’s right there. The second thing is when you walk out your front door you can go four blocks any way and have a hundred different service and retail options. That is what this urban program is all about.

“We’ve always said we’re not building buildings here. We’re building a corridor which it already is but really is the epicentre to all the live, work, play opportunities in the urban market.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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