University Distrct’s Notable Northwest series focuses on dynamic, noteworthy individuals from around Calgary’s Northwest, offering professional insights across a range of topics and each contributing to describing the spirit, opportunities and legacy of the Northwest.
We sat down with co-founder of Social Media Breakfast Calgary and community building enthusiast Donna McTaggert to speak about her neighbourhood, the evolution of University District (U/D), and what it means to be Northwest of Normal.
Let's explore your background—how did you end up where you are, as a social media enthusiast and guru?
I was always a bit of a nerd, the type of person who lives in the basement and happy to be left to her own devices developing software and reading computer manuals.
When social media came along, it was a very pivotal time for the way I built relationships and make connections. It served as a major avenue to meet people and be part of communities in a way that was entirely new to me. At the time, people thought social media would isolate people and encourage them to stay away from others, but for me it was the opposite. This is how I built my network.
Social media gave me the opportunity to make connections, and it was from these connections that sparked a passion for relationship building and gatherings. It’s grown into a desire for working with message driven events and finding ways to bring traditional marketing and social media together.
I find lots of missed opportunities for connections on social media, and it’s exciting to be able to identify this and facilitate relationships, helping communities grow from them.
Where do you live in the Northwest? How would you describe the atmosphere and the spirit of the Northwest of the city?
I’ve been a Calgarian for 31 years, and have been living in the Northwest for 29 years in an old house on Shaganappi.
I would say the Northwest is sheltered and peaceful. It’s one of the few places in the city where it’s easy to find solitude, but never unfriendly. It’s the perfect form of quiet, and rests on the edge of the buzz of downtown. It’s a perfect distance away, since even during Friday rush hour traffic, home is at most a fifteen-minute drive away—making the area perfectly accessible.
Here Donna shares more insights about her experiences as a Northwesterner and how U/D is bringing exciting change to the community.
How would you describe the area and how it has changed since you’ve lived there?
Physically, one of the things that are so interesting about the Northwest is how preserved and unchanged the landscape and nature is.
Since there is so much that remains untouched, it’s the perfect place for discovery. For example, I only came across University District’s pond very recently. The fact that I have lived here for so long and continue to find things for the first time is fascinating. University District’s location is so beautiful and close to my own backyard.
As a newcomer to the area, University District is bringing incredible opportunities to the Northwest, a place that’s been relatively unchanged by the city’s growth.
From addressing the needs of the local population with amenities like the prospective seniors complex, and a grocery store with other retail space, it’s revitalizing our community and bringing a host of opportunities to all of us as neighbors.
In looking at the evolution of how we share our stories, as video and of-the-moment updates become more popular, how do you see the Northwest changing in a digital sense?
I think the change our world is experiencing in how we socialize and share our lives is going to pique the curiosity people might have about the Northwest.
The nature and landscape of the area is unlike anything else that exists in the city. The sheer amount of green space with our parks and pathways is incredible, and still relatively unknown to many. There’s so much waiting to be explored and adventure to be found here, I can easily see the rise of social media and visual storytelling becoming a new way of welcoming people to the area. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Northwest on the receiving end of more visits and greater influxes of homebuyers.
What drew you to the U/D project and made you want to learn more?
As a local, I feel as though U/D’s arrival has been a long time coming. Many of us as neighbours have been looking at the space and listening to rumors and whispers of what was to come. It’s exciting to see the community take shape, particularly with the recent arrival of the Discovery Centre. What I do know is that University District going to bring vibrancy to this established neighbourhood, inviting new neighbors to the community and helping people find new wellness and social opportunities. The Northwest is large and diverse, and I think U/D will help bring people together in ways that just hadn’t existed before it began growing.
There’s absolutely a reason why families settle and stay in the Northwest long term: people have what they need here. Nature is a walk from the house, amenities are accessible, schools are close by, and there really isn’t even a need to drive to enjoy it. It’s a beautiful thing when everything is in reach.
U/D is going to breathe an exciting life into the NW, and I’m thrilled to be able to experience it firsthand.
What differentiates U/D as a community?
The two major features: range of services, including the different kinds of living spaces being developed, and that it’s geared to all ages. This area feels like it’s for everyone, which isn’t true of all the new communities within the city.
University District has adopted the tagline Northwest Of Normal. From your experiences with our growing community, what do you think that means?
I love that term; I think it’s a fabulous tagline.
As a meaning, I think it embodies the spirit of University District and what its presence means to the Northwest. The fact that U/D celebrates innovation, sharing green space, and the location is more than the ordinary.
Based on University District’s plans, that’s exactly what is taking shape.
From the first time I saw plans for the community to the open house and recent Discovery Centre launch, that’s definitely the feel of what is to come. It’s the everyday with a twist.
What does Northwest of Normal mean to you? Let us know what you think by joining the conversation on Twitter!