I’m sure most Calgarians have heard by now that Amazon is looking to open a second HQ in North America. This has left many folks asking themselves “could Amazon be looking at Calgary?”
The question could be asked “why Calgary?” but I’d rather focus on “why not Calgary?” As a city, we need to create an atmosphere that opens the door for greater economic diversification. The business world is changing. Where companies want to do business is different today than it has been in the past. Amazon isn’t the first company looking to open a new HQ and it certainly won’t be the last. We need to understand what makes for an attractive destination for these kinds of companies.
I’m an open thinker. I’ve always believed that we should throw all our ideas out on the table and pick out the best ones from there. Out of 100 ideas, maybe only 2 are any good…but the other 98 have helped us through the process and gotten us to where we wanted to be. So, here’s the idea I want to table – Could Ward 12 be a possible landing spot for a company like Amazon?
Conventional thinking would suggest that corporate HQs are in the downtown, but that’s a line of thinking that Calgary is successfully challenging. Take Quarry Park for instance. Public and private investments have turned land that previously served a different purpose into an amenity rich area that offers diverse and unique housing and employment opportunities.
So where could Amazon fit into Calgary? The site I’m most interested in falls just northeast of Quarry Park. An area called South Hill:
South Hill is a strategically located area just south of Glenmore Trail and east of the community of Riverbend. Some look at South Hill and see acres of vacant land; I see potential.
So, what exactly makes this location attractive? Here’s my short list:
Transit Oriented Development
South Hill has been identified as a key transit oriented development hub for the Green Line LRT. The area around the future South Hill station will be redeveloped into an area that supports thousands of new residents and new jobs. Without the Green Line LRT this redevelopment would not have been possible.
City Owned Land
Much of the land around South Hill is City owned. I would certainly be open to having The City gift land to a company like Amazon with the expectation that they would commit to our city for a significant number of years. The land could be utilized to create a corporate campus as well as residential development that could house folks that work for the company. Working with acres of City land available would allow for a new development footprint to start with a blank slate.
The surrounding land is zoned for a multitude of uses. South Hill can accommodate multi-residential, commercial and industrial uses. This could allow for a commercial development to be supplemented by housing opportunities for employees and industrial uses for their other business requirements.
Access to Amenities
I mentioned before that South Hill is strategically located. South Hill will be one station away from the Remington YMCA in Quarry Park. It will eventually be a few short stations from the South Health Campus. It will have direct access to our beautiful Bow River pathway network as well as numerous other community amenities.
South Hill has the existing and future transportation options to support a large scale corporate HQ. The Green Line LRT will provide a high efficiency transportation option and quick access to downtown. The newly opened Glenmore/Ogden interchange has also addressed a key bottleneck in our east-west transportation grid that opens a key corridor for the movement of goods (hmm, I wonder if a company like Amazon could make use of a key shipping corridor). The location would also have quick access to both Deerfoot Trail and Stoney Trail.
A few years ago, I sat down with an architectural firm to mock up a concept of what South Hill could look like. Here is a rendition of what we came up with:
Now of course this is just a concept, but it paints a bit of a picture of what could be near the South Hill Station. This concept, and the associated zoning, could support upwards of 25,000 residents and more than 8,700 jobs.
These projects could be adjusted accordingly based on the zoning and uses of the parcels.
As a city, we need to be prepared to think big. We think big when we commit to sharing ideas and envisioning what a better Calgary might look like. This is my contribution to the conversation, but I’m interested in hearing what you think. Could Ward 12 be a landing spot for a company like Amazon? Let me know HERE.