The Historical Evolution of Airdrie

An Overview of Airdrie


Airdrie’s history spans over 100 years and its urban form has evolved considerably over this time.

Airdrie became a rail settlement in the late 1800s with many of the workers on the Calgary-Edmonton rail line living in Airdrie. Steam-run railcars would stop in Airdrie to collect water from Nose Creek. Soon after, a local economy began to develop as workers needed services and housing. From 1891 into the early 1900s, Airdrie began to develop as a permanent settlement largely due to the C&E Railway originating in Calgary. Nose Creek was a significant reason for settling Airdrie due to the rail needing a water source as well as providing potable water for inhabitants.

By 1939, two grain elevators were built in the village (incorporated September 10, 1909) bringing an expanded and diversified economy to the area. Airdrie became one of the premier cereal crop farming areas in the province. The construction of Highway 2 alongside the rail line brought even more activity to Airdrie.

In the 1970’s, Airdrie was selected as a preferred “decentralized” location for the Alberta Transportation and Alberta Infrastructure government service offices. Several other industries such as Propak Industries and Westinghouse also located in Airdrie during the 1970’s due to its proximity to the Calgary region.

Airdrie was incorporated as a Town on May 1, 1974 as one of a series of sidings along the railway between Calgary and Edmonton. A railway station and grain elevators were constructed along the tracks, however an abundance of wetlands and a high water table forced the establishment of the town site to the east of the railway lines on higher ground and Main Street was established as the commercial main street along with a grid pattern of residential blocks.

By 1947, Airdrie was a small compact village and served as an agricultural and railway service centre with direct highway and rail access. Urban form and structure highlights included:

  • Airdrie was oriented to Highway 2 (now 2A) to the east;
  • Main entry was from the highway at 1st Avenue;
  • The townsite was surrounded by numerous wetlands and watercourses;
  • The railway station and grain elevators formed a node of activity on the railway tracks.

By 1974, Airdrie was a town with a population of approximately 1,000 and construction of Highway #2 was completed and ran along the east side of the townsite. Urban form and structure highlights included:

  • Modest residential growth extended the grid north and east in a compact form;
  • The railway and Nose Creek inhibited development to the west
  • Highway 2 formed a strong edge to the east
  • An open space system was formed by schools, recreation fields and church properties.

By 1980, Airdrie like most of Alberta had experienced significant growth in response to an economic boom, and development had occurred on both sides of the highway. Urban form and structure highlights included:

  • The grid pattern of the original townsite had filled in and much new residential and industrial development occurred in east Airdrie
  • A highway commercial strip developed along the west side of the highway accessed internally by Highway 2A
  • Residential growth to the south leapfrogged due to availability of easily developable land, creating a discontinuous and dispersed town form
  • Significant amounts of mobile home developments locate in east Airdrie
  • East Lake park has been developed as a water-oriented complex of recreation and amenity
  • spaces
  • Industrial development has taken place in the northeast part of Airdrie
  • The railway station has been lost
  • Nose Creek has been channelized in several sections, resulting in restriction and formalization of the water course.

By 1998, Airdrie has established neighbourhoods in the west and east, and is growing to the northwest. Urban form and structure highlights included:

  • Residential growth in the west and east has developed with a suburban curvilinear street
  • pattern
  • Nose Creek Park has been developed and forms a major open space complex within the city
  • The golf courses has been constructed in the west part of town, and is integrated in new
  • residential developments
  • A big box commercial mall has been developed in the downtown along Main Street as a vehicular-oriented area and contributes to the decline of main Street
  • Highway commercial development has taken place on both sides of Highway 2 where it is
  • accessed by service roads
  • Country residential developments have taken place outside the city limits

By 2006, Airdrie has become a rapidly growing city with a population of over 27,000. While it historically has served as a bedroom community of Calgary, it has diversified its economy and commercial opportunities. Urban form and structure highlights include:

  • Extensive growth has occurred in all four directions
  • New commercial development occurred in the south and north edges in the form of vehicle-
  • oriented large-format retail development
  • City hall is established in a renovated retail building
  • The downtown main street commercial is in physical and economic decline
  • More highway commercial has developed on both sides of the highway
  • The railway no longer forms a strong edge in the west, although there are few level crossings
  • New residential areas are developed in a variety of unrelated forms and are poorly connected to each other.

Airdrie Today

By 2012, Airdrie is home to over 45,700 people and the land base has expanded to over 20,000 acres. 
Urban form and structure highlights include:

  • Extensive suburban residential development on both sides of Highway #2, particularly in the
  • south-west
  • The predominant road pattern in new communities includes looped collector roads and cul de
  • sacs making walkability and transit challenging
  • Commercial growth continues to fill-out in the north and south retail nodes. A major mall has
  • located in Rocky View to the south of the city
  • The downtown has attracted minimal new development, although there are some renovations
  • and infill developments
  • The main highway access routes are Veterans Bld. And Yankee Valley Blvd.


Table 1.0—Population Growth Rate
Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 &2011

The chart above reflects information from the federal census done by Statistics Canada. It is used by the city to compare figures over time and to make comparisons to other communities using a similar methodology.

In addition to Statistics Canada information, the city also conducts a civic census every year which provides updated population figures and growth rates. Because the civic census is not mandatory, response rates can vary from year to year. According to the 2012 civic census, Airdrie’s population was 45,711, which reflected a 5.92% increase from the 2011 civic census population.

Demographic Trends

Airdrie’s demographic profile is unique for the province and Calgary region characterizing the City as youthful and affluent. Seventy-three percent of the population is under 45 years of age and report a median income of $78,907. Less than 5% of the population is over the age of 65 year. Consequently projected future growth is anticipated to increase significantly: the population is expected to increase to 90,000 by 2040 and 110,000 people by 2057. To ensure the City meets the needs of residents, land use planning will need to reflect this young, family oriented demographic: neighbourhoods need to be designed to encourage physical activity, with convenient access to amenities and services; school sites should be identified in advance of land acquisition; and a broad range of housing types need to reflect varying lifestyles, income, and family types.

Table 1.1—Demographic Profile
Source: Statistics Canada (2006), Airdrie Census (2011), Calgary Census (2011)

**Excerpts for Discussion
Introductory sections, General Development Concept & Economic Prosperity Chapter
Airdrie City Plan, April 2013**

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