Pop-Ups for Building Owners

Animate your unused ground floor space with pop-ups and interim tenants

Joni Carroll

Retail space sitting empty? What to keep things interesting for your other tenants? Exciting news! The City of Calgary has made it easier to animate short term spaces all across Calgary with engaging pop-up shops and events.

We’ve studied the recent changes to The City’s land use bylaw, came up with a set of steps, and then double-checked it with City staff. We’ve even included some marketing ideas for you.

Before You Start: Determine if you want to attract “pop-up uses” (four days max at a time, max 50 days a year) or “interim uses” (six months in a year, either consecutively or not).

Step 1: Start with your property’s land use designation

Pop-ups and interim uses are allowed on the ground floor of existing buildings or within an enclosed shopping mall if the land use is listed. Find your building by inputting the address at maps.calgary.ca. Click on the property and see the Land Use information in the box that pops up. This box also gives you other important information, like the name of the City councilor

Pop-Ups: Throughout all of Calgary, if the land use is Commercial (C-anything), Industrial (I-G, B, E, C or R), Multi-Residential (M-H or M-X), or Mixed Use (MU-anything), you are good to go!

In Centre City, look for CC-MHX, CC-X, CC-COR, and CR20 and in East Village, look for CC-ET, CC-EIR, CC-EMU and CC-EPR.

Interim Uses: Throughout all of Calgary, if the land use is Commercial (C-anything), Industrial (I-B, E, or C), Multi-Residential (M-H or M-X), or Mixed Use (MU-anything), you are good to go!

In Centre City, look for CC-MHX, CC-X, CC-COR, and CR20-C20/R20 and in East Village, look for CC-ET, CC-EIR, CC-EMU, and CC-EPR.

Your space will likely already have an existing use designation e.g. retail shop, restaurant. This information is not included on the My Property link; you must call 403.268.5351 to determine this designation.

Some important notes about land use designation:

  • If the building’s land use is DC (Direct Control), take a look to see if it refers to a ‘base district’ such as C-COR1. If your DC does, and the base district is in the list above, that use will be allowed. If your DC does not refer to a base district, you need to check the date to determine when the direct control was created: e.g. DC 64D2010 was created in 2010. Sadly, this new change to the bylaw does not apply retroactively to direct control districts that do not refer to a base district. If your building falls into this pre-2019 land use, contact us and we will try to help.
  • If you have a larger space (e.g. an empty big-box store), and it’s been empty for more than six months with an occupancy of over 40 people, the Fire Department may have additional criteria to keep the public safe in case of emergency.
Step 2: Determine what kinds of uses are best for your building

The land use bylaw has very specific definitions of each of these uses. Read more at lub.calgary.ca. Then find the use that best describes your pop-up or interim use idea.

Permitted Interim Uses:

  • Artist’s Studio
  • Information and Service Provider
  • Office
  • Print Centre
  • Retail and Consumer Service
  • Specialty Food Store

Permitted Pop-up Uses:

  • Amusement Arcade
  • Artist’s Studio
  • Auction Market – Other Goods
  • Billiard Parlour
  • Cinema
  • Computer Games Facility
  • Conference and Event Facility
  • Counselling Service
  • Fitness Centre
  • Indoor Recreation Facility
  • Information and Service Provider
  • Instruction Facility
  • Library
  • Market (see special note below)
  • Medical Clinic
  • Museum
  • Office
  • Performing Arts Centre
  • Pet Care Service
  • Print Centre
  • Retail and Consumer Service
  • Specialty Food Store
  • Veterinary Clinic

Or an “educational, recreational, sporting, social, and worship activity that includes, but is not limited to a wedding, circus, birthday, trade show, and ceremony.”

Some Important Notes:

  • If you are seeking a use that requires a health inspection (e.g. food preparation on site), the tenant will need to have a business license.
  • If you are seeking a use that requires an AGLC license (e.g. serving alcohol), the tenant will need to have a business license.
Step 3: Connecting with Pop-Ups and Interim Uses

Once you’ve determined the kind of uses you want to have from the list above, it’s time to do a little marketing of your space. It won’t be too hard to find individuals and organizations in your community that are interested in popping up!

One of the most effective things you can do is to put a large engaging sign in the window of your space, inviting the kind of use and duration you are interested in. And use social media to reach people interested in the short-term use of your space. One of the most effective uses of social media is to share the posts and tweets about this weekend’s pop up to find next month’s short term user.

Step 4: Book a free ‘pre-application’ meeting

The City of Calgary’s planning and development team have a nimble approach to these meetings and will schedule one within three days of hearing from you. The intent of the meeting is to re-confirm that a straightforward pop-up or interim use is possible in your space (see notes above re food preparation, alcohol and large spaces).

Step 5: Keep in touch

We’d love to know if you give this a try and if you were successful or if you encountered some hiccups. Note that this information is accurate at time of writing (October 2019) but the land use bylaw does change over time.

You can reach us at spaces@calgaryartsdevelopment.com.

Joni Carroll is Calgary Arts Development’s Arts Spaces Consultant, striving for abundant, appropriate, affordable arts spaces in Calgary through her work with arts organizations, space developers, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

Joni has a particular passion for the arts and began her relationship with Calgary Arts Development by volunteering for the Arts Spaces Committee in 2006. Additionally, she has volunteered on the boards of other spaces initiatives in Calgary including Doors Open YYC and the Calgary Heritage Authority.

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