Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

Significant price expected for Calgary’s proposed downtown plan

Breadcrumb Trail Links

Author of the article:

Amanda Stephenson • • Calgary Herald

Release date:

April 15, 2021 • • April 15, 2021 • • 3 minutes read • • 26 comments Due to the high vacancy rate of downtown office space in Calgary, rental signs are often seen in office buildings on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia

Article content

A proposed plan to save the battered downtown Calgary will incur “significant” government costs, officials said Thursday.

The city council will be asked to vote later this month on a formal request for money for the city’s proposed new downtown plan, which was approved by a city committee last week. The plan includes a proposal to create tax-funded financial incentives for developers to convert empty office towers into residential buildings, as well as public investment in street improvements and capital projects to improve the appearance of the inner city.

Funding would also be made available for festivals and other public events that aim to put vibrancy and people first.

While an estimated price for the proposed plan has not yet been released, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Calgarians should expect it to be “big.”

“It will come to the council. . . with a pretty significant financial issue, “Nenshi said in a speech during the Calgary Economic Development annual report to the community on Thursday. “I hope that the council will support this investment in the future of Calgary and that this will be funded by the federal and provincial governments.”

advertising

This ad hasn’t loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The city council has been grappling with Calgary’s “downtown problem” for years, caused by the collapse in oil prices and years of recessions, layoffs and consolidations in the energy sector. About 30 percent – or about 12 million square feet – of the office space in the heart of the city is now vacant. Since 2015, the city’s downtown has lost $ 16 billion in real estate value, forcing the tax burden to shift to businesses outside of the core as well as to interest payers in residential areas.

Article content

Due to the high vacancy rate of downtown Calgary office space for rental signs, office buildings are often seen on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. Due to the high vacancy rate of downtown Calgary office space for rental signs, office buildings are often seen on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia

Mary Moran, President and CEO of CED, told reporters Thursday that the investment required in the downtown area is substantial. However, if property values ​​in the city center are allowed to fall further, it will become more expensive in the long run.

“The alternative is increasing taxes,” said Moran. “There is no choice, to be completely honest.”

Article content

Moran added that while a well-thought-out plan for downtown will require an initial investment from citizens, the goal is to ultimately attract even greater private sector contributions.

“We’ve talked to a lot of cities about how they got there and it always takes government investment first to move this forward, but the payback on long-term private sector investments is pretty significant,” she said. “It is a space for government to play in to drive this investment and change.”

In an interview, Coun. Jeff Davison said public investment was “absolutely” necessary. He said a significant amount of work would be required downtown if Calgary is to attract new businesses and businesses in the future.

advertising

This ad hasn’t loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“I don’t yet know what the recommendation is. But look, whether it’s the city or the private sector, downtown will require half a billion to a billion dollars worth of investments, ”Davison said.

Coun. Druh Farrell, who also supports the downtown plan, said the key to any revitalization project will be to get more people to live downtown. While office-to-home conversions have long been offered as a solution, Farrell says developers are unlikely to take this risk without financial incentives.

“It is far more expensive to convert an existing building than to build a new one elsewhere,” she said. “But we know that conversions have to be part of the solution.”

Farrell added that the city must commit to a complete redesign of the area, as it did with the East Village revitalization project. There is no time to waste, she said.

“To turn the city center around, we have to act,” she said. “We have been scrutinizing the inner city problem for years.”

In addition to the core, Calgary’s proposed downtown plan includes Downtown West, the Beltline, Eau Claire, Chinatown, and the East Village. The stated goal is to “get beyond the traditional business district 9 to 5 in the direction of a vibrant city center that people can enjoy around the clock with a balanced mix of living, office, retail, entertainment, tourism and culture.”

– With files from Chris Varcoe

astephenson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @AmandaMsteph

Share this article on your social network

advertising

This ad hasn’t loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Calgary Herald headlines

By clicking the “Subscribe” button, you agree to receive the above-mentioned newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300

Remarks

Postmedia strives to maintain a lively but civil discussion forum and to encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. It can take up to an hour for comments to be moderated before they appear on the website. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have turned on email notifications. You will now receive an email when you get a reply to your comment, when a comment thread you’re following is updated, or when a user follows comments. For more information and details on customizing your email settings, see our Community Guidelines.

Comments are closed.