Banff Railway Lands Area Redevelopment Plan
Context and History | The past influencing the present
The Banff Railway Station has been a cornerstone in the evolution of Banff and railway tourism in Canada. As a gateway to the mountain west and part of Canada’s first transcontinental railway link, the railway helped to shape transportation in the region and played an important role in Confederation.
The Banff Railway Lands within the Banff townsite include the CPR mainline right-of-way, the historic Banff train station and associated station grounds, and adjacent lands that have been previously disturbed as a result of a century of the railway operations. The ARP builds on this historic context to strengthen the identity of site and the town.
The area redevelopment plan study area is 17.4 hectares in area, of which approximately 13 hectares (32 acres) is leased to Norquay Mystic Ridge Ltd. It encompasses lands located on both the south and north side of the railway right-of-way adjacent to Norquay Road at the west entrance to Banff, lands along the length of the south side of Railway Avenue and includes the existing railway station building. The Town of Banff retains ownership of its roads, lane right of ways, and other utility infrastructure within the plan area. The CPR retains ownership of the station platform and its railway operations corridor.
The majority of the lands fall within the CR (Commercial Railway) Land Use District. Portions of the site are also located within the PS (Public Service) Land Use District along the south side of Railway Avenue, low density residential lands immediately adjacent to the south of the CR District, and a small parcel of PP (Public Parkland) land to the east of Elk Street.
The heart and soul of the Banff Railway Lands ARP is the historic CPR station building. The station and construction of a transcontinental railway is directly linked to the development of Canada’s national park system and the evolution of Canada’s tourism industry.
The concept of creating a visitor and arrivals/reception centre and intercept parking at the west entrance to Banff was contemplated as far back as 1992 in the Town’s Downtown Enhancement Concept Plan. The plan identified a need to explore options to link visitor services on the railway lands site with the downtown core and other destinations in Banff. It also encouraged “other methods of arrival that reduce the use of private autos including rail, and transfers to Calgary International Airport.”
The ARP offers the opportunity to return this historic landmark and destination to its former prominence with several initiatives, including:
- Rehabilitating and restoring the historic railway station building
- Creating new public spaces better suited to today’s travelling public without compromising the historic character of the site
- Creating a multi-modal transportation hub
- Investing in low carbon, climate resilient infrastructure
- Enhancing the interpretation of the history of the CPR and its significance in the evolution of railway tourism in Banff, as well as the larger history of the Bow Valley and its Indigenous Peoples.
The plan also allows for the Fenland-Indian Ground Wildlife Corridor to be enhanced by the preservation and restoration of previously disturbed lands to a naturally revegetated state as functional wildlife habitat north of the railway tracks.
Understanding the regulatory and policy framework
The Town of Banff Incorporation Agreement between the Government of Canada and Province of Alberta outlines the purposes and scope of authorities for the Town of Banff. The Alberta Municipal Government Act (MGA) outlines the scope of responsibilities for municipalities for adopting an Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP).
An Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) is a statutory plan that would be adopted as a bylaw by Town Council in accordance Alberta's Municipal Government Act and Article 5.5 of the Town of Banff Incorporation Agreement.
The ARP must also be considered in conjunction with the Banff Community Plan and the Banff National Park of Canada Management Plan.
ARPs are used to guide the redevelopment of existing, developed, or disturbed areas which are in need of some form of rehabilitation and improvement. They provide a framework and supporting policies that will guide future public and private investment in the short term (within 5 years), medium term (5-10 years), and longer term (+10 years), and to assist decision makers during the review of future land use bylaw amendments and development permit applications.
In order for an area redevelopment plan to be approved, the proposed bylaw to adopt the plan must receive three distinct and separate readings by council. Council must also hold a public hearing prior to second reading so that the public has an opportunity to provide feedback to council directly on the plan. If the plan is approved by council and third reading is granted, the plan is then forwarded to the federal minister responsible for Parks Canada for endorsement.
Setting a redevelopment plan in motion
On February 11, 2019, Town Council established a Terms of Reference for the Railway Lands Area Redevelopment Plan that established the boundary of planning area and a summary of what council expected to be addressed in the Area Redevelopment Plan. This direction allowed the proponent to commence work on a draft plan.
- Read the 2019 report to Banff Town Council with the Terms of Reference for the ARP:
- February 11, 2019 Council Report - Proposed Railway Lands Area Redevelopment Plan (PDF)
On June 14, 2021, an overview of the scope of the Draft Railway Lands Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) was presented to the Governance and Finance Committee of Banff Town Council. A 2021 council priority related to Long Range/Strategic Planning/Policy Analysis. In the annual service review and budget process, council directed administration to:
- Return to the Governance and Finance committee with a briefing outlining the scope of the Railway lands Area Redevelopment Plan prior to First Reading. The following document provides that briefing:
- Draft Railway Lands Area Redevelopment Plan (PDF)
The Town of Banff has provided policy direction and guidance to the project proponent and their consulting team since February 2019 to identify requirements and to ensure the plan adheres to the Council-approved terms of reference for the site development.
The purpose of the Banff Railway Lands Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) is to create a vibrant, multimodal transportation hub and destination arrival centre that respects and enhances the historical, physical, and social context of the site. The overarching vision is to reinvigorate the railway lands. and restore the historic Banff train station and surrounding area to its former prominence, a gathering place for residents and a visitor arrival centre. The plan will also build on the historic character of the site and enhance the potential for the interpretation of the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway and its significance in the evolution of national parks and railway tourism in Canada.
With a view towards the future, the Banff Railway Lands ARP illuminates the central aspects of the station’s character while revitalizing both the station and surrounding site as a functional, multimodal transportation hub, gathering place, and arrival centre.
Commercial developments within the railway lands are all located on existing commercially zoned lands and planned to include retail shops, restaurants, bars, personal services, offices, transportation services, and other related commercial services. A range of commercial and community services are also to be encouraged within newly proposed standalone or mixed-use buildings, to promote services that meet the needs of residents, visitors, and the travelling public.
Any newly proposed commercial uses are subject to the Town of Banff Commercial Growth Management Allocation Regulations and must be consistent with the use of the district for railway services.
The draft ARP is to be based on the approved Terms of Reference and extensive background research and analysis including the review of existing and past policy direction and several new background reports and technical studies. The proposed plan is to be divided into 10 sections as follows:
Section 1: Land Use describes the land use, the historic context of development in the Railway Lands, an overview of the ARP process and existing policy framework, and the overall vision of the plan. It summarizes the plan’s guiding principles, objectives, coordination with Town policies and technical studies that informed the ARP.
Section 2: Site Framework summarizes the site framework, its surrounding land uses, plan attributes, principles, community, and environmental priorities in alignment with the goals and objectives of the Town of Banff plans and policies.
Section 3: Land Use Concept focuses on the policies that support implementation of a cohesive design concept for the system of streets, parks, and other public spaces that together provide the means for mobility, recreation, and social gathering within the plan area.
Section 4: Urban Design contains design policies and guidelines for individual precincts, and includes direction on building massing, architectural treatments, site design, lighting, parking, signage, and respect for the pedestrian environment.
Section 5: Mobility, Accessibility & Connectivity describes the overall transportation vision for the plan area to create a compact, walkable and bikeable destination with mixed land uses and convenient transit options that foster low impact movement by foot, bicycle, and other active modes of transportation. A key aspect of the vision for the railway lands is to incorporate an integrated transit hub on the site to service the public and provide seamless transfers between different modes of travel for residents, and visitors. A detailed Transportation Impact Assessment was also prepared to evaluate vehicular movements, active transportation movements and parking demands for the site, and builds on the Town of Banff’s Transportation Master Plan (2012), the Banff Long Term Transportation Study (2016) as well as the Calgary-Bow-Valley-Mass-Transit-Feasibility-Study (2018).
Section 6: Infrastructure contains policies and mechanisms by which infrastructure and services for new development will be provided, how the levels of service will be established and define the limitations and restrictions on the infrastructure services
Section 7: Environmentally Significant and Sensitive Areas provides policy direction for areas of the site that have environmental attributes worthy of retention or special care. The aim is to preserve and enhance ecological integrity consistent with policy direction in the Banff Community Plan and Environmental Master Plan.
Section 8: Railway Heritage outlines the policies and guidelines to promote the preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, or reconstruction of heritage buildings and landscape features within the site. This also includes acknowledging and celebrating First Nations and indigenous connections in conjunction with the natural and human history of the plan area.
Section 9: Culture contains policies that support creative, artistic, and interpretive initiatives with a focus on recognizing the site's railway heritage where feasible.
Section 10: Implementation Approval of this plan is the first step in implementation of the ARP. This chapter provides a chronological guide to the actions, entities, and timelines that must be initiated and coordinated to support achievement of desired planning outcomes over the short, medium, and long term as they relate to this ARP.
Community Engagement | Working together to plan for future redevelopment
To help shape the ARP, Liricon Capital/Norquay Mystic Ridge Ltd. initiated community engagement, following the adoption of the Terms of Reference by Council in 2019. Through in-person and digital engagement, community members were invited to have conversations about the project, ask questions and were encouraged to provide feedback on the key topics that will be elements of the ARP.
Liricon's online survey and in-person public engagement identified concerns or need for clarification, and the overall concept to redevelop the area in a way to support environmental and community objectives with a transportation hub that was generally supported.
The proponent promoted how the ARP can help relieve congestion within the Banff townsite, improve the visitor experience and lead to environmental or wildlife benefits if aspects of the plan are implemented.
Norquay Mystic Ridge Ltd. and the Town of Banff will continue to work together to coordinate ways to inform the community about the draft plan and seek input for Council's consideration. Upcoming opportunities will include a public open house or workshops, interviews, and online engagement.
Once a draft of the proposed amending bylaw and related ARP is finalized, it will be posted on banff.ca along with an appropriate feedback mechanism and opportunities for public input in advance of the final public hearing process.
Further information from the applicant can be found at https://banffecotransithub.ca/