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North Calgary residents get first glimpse at North Hill growth plan

Citizens got their first look at the big picture being developed for north Calgary and many attendees appreciated having all the city business units under one roof.

The City of Calgary held a public information session at James Fowler High School Saturday to deliver the initial vision for the North Hill Communities local growth plan, a new type of planning format that has individual communities grouped together geographically to create an area redevelopment regime for that region of the city.

Previously the city would create an area redevelopment plan focused on one or two communities.

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Calgary community vision plans one part of larger established area redevelopment

The communities involved in the North Hill plan are: Tuxedo Park, Mount Pleasant, Highland Park, Winston Heights – Mountainview, Crescent Heights, Renfrew, Rosedale, Thorncliffe Greenview and Rosedale. They’re centred around four Calgary main streets: 4 Street NW, Edmonton Trail, Centre Street and 16 Avenue.

It was the first trade-show style engagement the city’s done on a project of this type. Many of the city’s departments that will have a hand in the future growth of established communities were there to answer Calgarians’ questions related to the overall vision.

Troy Gonzalez, the City of Calgary senior planner spearheading the North Hill project, said the first phase of the project was working with area stakeholders and community groups to come up with a plan that demonstrated the top-level vision for what’s next in the area. Phase 2 is delivering that vision to area residents for feedback.

Gonzalez said redevelopment pressures are building in these north Calgary communities and they felt it was a good time to bring all of them together to come up with a unified vision on how to move forward.

“Rather than pitting one community against the other and drawing lines – typically community lines tend to go down these main streets – what we’re trying to do is flip that around and say these main streets are actually… that’s the glue that kind of holds these communities together,” he said.

“The idea is recognizing the connections between these communities rather than trying to do a community specific plan that doesn’t really capture that.”

Calgary visual artist Sam Hester captured many residents’ visions of what their future community would look like, through this visual representation. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Gonzalez said the feedback logged at this information session – and through their online engagement portal – will be catalogued and applied to the next iteration of the plan.  

He said they understand that with nine communities there could be different voices and even within each community the perspectives can vary.

“Planning can be a bit of a messy process and the idea here is to have as broad a conversation with a big swath of different types of stakeholders.”

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Renfrew resident Dennis Laird said he liked the approach of having all the city departments under one roof for this one-stop-shop on the North Hill plan. He said it provides an opportunity to see the bigger picture for how this plan would take shape rather than individual community one offs.

“I honestly think this approach is amazing because you can easily hop from one area to another and learn about the plan and get a lot of information in a short amount of time,” he said.  

Laird said he also favours the local area planning as many residents in the nearby community share a common vision.

“I think we have to understand that these community organizations do not operate separately, they actually work together, so I think it’s an amazing idea to see actual growth within a region, not just within a community,” he said.

Laird came in with an open mind on what to expect, but he has a firm grasp on what he’d like to see for the area.

“Smart growth, simple as that,” Laird said.

Nathan Hawryluk, also a Renfrew resident, and director of planning for the Renfrew Community Association, said he also really liked the big picture approach taken by the city. It was easy to gather information on a number of different areas at once.

“Plus, it’s probably good for the city departments to talk together, too,” he said.

Feedback that comes from the public information session will be used to draft the first land use concept, Gonzalez said. They expect to have a final version to deliver to the city’s planning and urban development committee by the end of 2019.