High River Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan

Client Town of High River
Location High River | Alberta | Canada

In the aftermath of the 2013 floods, damage to infrastructure required a complete replacement of utilities, resulting in significant excavation of existing streets. Despite the unprecedented destruction, the fortitude of the community remained. The resolve of the citizens of High River was clear: downtown is the heart of the community, and the community wanted its heart back. Long-term solutions were needed to ensure that economic and cultural vitality was restored and improved. 

The immediate need to respond to the flood’s aftermath laid the groundwork for the development of long-term solutions. Utilities downtown required complete replacement, resulting in significant excavation of the existing streetscape, and providing an enormous opportunity. In February 2014, the Town of High River retained the services of O2 Planning + Design to guide the Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP). Alongside the reconstruction of the public realm, the ARP would present the post-June 2013 flood strategy for downtown recovery and revitalization. Working within compressed timelines, in an emotionally-charged environment, O2’s multidisciplinary team employed big ideas, bold leadership and extensive community involvement to redefine the downtown area.


The new streetscape design successfully cultivates an improved visitor experience and a positive environment for local business. Economic redevelopment is supported by wide sidewalks that allow spill-out activities from businesses into the street. Vehicular calming measures are implemented throughout the core as well, reducing traffic speeds and increasing pedestrian safety. 4th Avenue was redesigned as a woonerf, where pedestrians and vehicles share the road. This design features allows the street to be closed off for pedestrian-only events such as farmers’ markets and special events. Carefully selected trees have been planted and will grow to line the streets, providing a much needed element of biophilic greenery to the downtown area.