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City proposes a $ 200 million investment to transform the battered downtown Calgary

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The city council will discuss the Greater Downtown Plan on Monday, including an application for an “initial investment package” to begin work on transforming central Calgary neighborhoods

Author of the article:

Madeline Smith

Release date:

April 23, 2021 • • 3 hours ago • • 3 minutes read • • 11 comments Office buildings will rise up in Calgary on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The Calgary Planning and Urban Development Committee has approved the Greater Downtown Plan. A strategic meeting will be held on April 26th for further discussion. Photo by Christopher Landry / Postmedia

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Downtown Calgary needs an immediate $ 200 million investment and a 10-year plan to bring $ 1 billion to the troubled core of the city.

The city council will discuss the Greater Downtown Plan on Monday, including an application for an “initial investment package” to begin work on transforming central Calgary neighborhoods.

The plan, approved by the committee earlier this month, includes strategies for adapting older office buildings for other uses, introducing a better mix of amenities and services, and generally improving the look of the city center. In addition to the downtown core, it includes Downtown West, the Beltline, Eau Claire, Chinatown, and the East Village.

  1. For Lease signs are often seen on office buildings due to the high vacancy rate of office space in downtown Calgary.

    “Downtown no longer works for us”: the council committee endorses the plan to redesign the core

  2. Calgary's skyline as photographed from Scotsman's Hill on Thursday, December 3, 2020.

    The city strategy sets a new course to change the “vertical office park” of the city center.

More than half of the total $ 200 million would come from city reserves, and an additional $ 77 million would come from funding federal infrastructure.

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“The initial investment proposed in the report only accounts for 20 percent of the total start-up requirement,” says a city report.

“We need to look deeply into alternative sources of funding and support from other government regulations to fill 80 percent of the funding gap.”

The downtown plan aims to solve the ongoing problem of vacant office towers, wiping out 60 percent of downtown office property values ​​since 2015, and disrupting the Calgary property tax system. The COVID-19 pandemic has also “accelerated” the need to revitalize downtown neighborhoods across Canada.

According to the report, a “doing nothing” scenario poses great risks to the future of the inner city and the financial future of the city.

City officials say Calgary’s core will need about $ 500 million for “downtown living infrastructure and equipment” and another $ 500 million to clear office space over the next decade.

Illustration of a “theoretical” conversion of an office building from the Greater Downtown plan of the city of Calgary. Illustration of a “theoretical” conversion of an office building from the Greater Downtown plan of the city of Calgary. Photo by the City of Calgary, Architectural Research Bureau

An essential part of the inner city plan is to convert empty office space into residential units or other uses such as post-secondary space. The city is proposing to use $ 45 million of the original funds to incentivize builders to get this job done, which is often costly and complicated.

City officials also recommend a $ 5.5 million grant to the HomeSpace Society to convert 95,000 square feet of office space into 108 affordable rental units. They say the project is “a unique demonstration opportunity” to help with future proposals and that the local government money will help the affordable housing provider attract more investment.

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The remainder of the $ 200 million is made up of $ 55 million for a capital program, $ 5 million for people-centered programs, and $ 10 million for a group of city workers who specialize in it focus on the city center.

The Arts Commons Transformation Project is also part of the Priorities, with $ 80 million for the first phase of work. That money would come almost entirely from the expected doubling of the Canada Community-Building Fund, formerly known as the Federal Gas Tax Fund.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said it had been apparent for some time that downtown was in trouble and it was time to take steps to rebuild it.

“It’s a meaningless gesture if it’s not funded. I’m 100 percent behind on funding, ”he said.

“The business principle that sometimes you have to spend money to make money is exactly where we are as a city. If we want to reinvent our economy, if we want to diversify, we have to take the steps to make it possible. “

But Coun. Sean Chu said he would have questions about the high price.

“Of course, renovation makes the city center better,” he said. “But if a private company owns everything, why should the city subsidize something that’s better for it?”

masmith@postmedia.com

Twitter: @meksmith

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