On February 24 I had the pleasure of speaking at the We are Cities Roundtable. This Roundtable was a great opportunity to discuss ways we can make Calgary an even better place to live. The way I see it there are three key points to focus on when discussing the future of Calgary: densification, customer choice and the suburban/urban divide. Calgary is a very unique city, and by working together we can find a way to make Calgary even better.
Dealing with Density
Densification is critical to the City of Calgary. Calgary is growing at an unprecedented rate. In the last year we have seen approximately 40,000 new Calgarians come to our city. The longer term projections are even more impressive as we expect upwards of 1,000,000 new people and 500,000 new jobs in Calgary over the next 60 years. We need to find ways to accommodate this dramatic population increase within the existing foot print of Calgary.
Calgary will need to explore densification not only in the inner city but also in the suburbs. There are pockets within the City that currently deal with density very well, and the expansion of projects like the Green Line will help grow new communities in a way that is truly beautiful without negatively impacting more established communities. Transit oriented development has a key role to play in the densification of Calgary moving forward.
There are great examples even in Ward 12 of how density works well in the suburbs. I recently saw the plans for a development in the SE that will consist of 200+ units over 4 acres. This 4 acre multi residential development is split into 4 distinct quadrants:
At market rentals
- Geared to diverse age-groups
- Young first time buyers
- Gym/weights stuidio
- Luxury townhouses for empty nesters
- Family-oriented setting
Independent and Assisted Living
- Pharmacy wellness respite medical
- Cafe dining restaurant
Each unique quadrant has access to amenities across the development. This is a great example of how density is making a positive difference in suburban communities while offering the greatest level of customer choice.
Protecting Customer Choice
Calgary is a city that is made up with a tremendous amount of diversity that we should celebrate. We have folks that share a great appreciation for the arts, a great appreciation for the outdoors and a great appreciation for inner city living. This diversity needs to be evident in the amenities and developments that Calgary has to offer.
Calgary needs to offer incredible art galleries, but also needs to offer things like racetracks. These different customer choices do not need to work in competition with each other; we must find a way to make our differing tastes complimentary instead of adversarial.
Customer choice is very evident where people chose to live in the city. The secondary suites debate in Calgary is an example of how we need to find a way to do what is right while protecting customer choice. Calgary must find a way to offer affordable housing, but we also cannot trample on the rights of R1 residents in the process. Calgary offers a great variety of communities that fit the needs of a variety of people with an even greater variety of interests.
A community like Mahogany in Ward 12 is a great example of offering customer choice. Residents have plethora of housing options at their disposal while still being offered the amenities of suburban living. Mahogany has single family housing with expansive backyards, townhouses, at market rental apartments and multi residential facilities. This is just one example of how density and customer choice can help build better communities around the city.
Suburban v Urban
This is a bumper sticker that I have up in my office:
While I get a laugh every time I read it, I firmly believe that Calgary can do suburbs the right way. Calgary needs thriving inner city communities, but it also needs to see continued growth in the new communities in the suburbs.
Density is not something solely reserved for the inner city. As I mentioned earlier, there are great examples of how communities in Ward 12 are managing density. There are wonderful communities in the suburbs that have been well planned and are crucial to the growth of Calgary moving forward.
Not all Calgarians want to live in the inner city, and not all Calgarians want a large backyard in a quieter community. This does not mean that one group of Calgarians is right and the other is wrong. We need to celebrate the differences in our city and stop this contentious divide that separates urban and suburban.
One City, One Community
As mentioned earlier in this article, Calgary is going to continue to grow rapidly. By working together and celebrating what makes Calgary so unique, we can ensure that future planning and development is done in a way that benefits all Calgarians. This is not about urban v suburban, this is about building a better Calgary. Regardless of where we live or what our interests are, we all share one thing in common; we are all Calgarians.