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Calgary planning: Mistakes and missed opportunities – Part 2

There are some mistakes made in every city in North America that came of age in the middle of the 20th century. Things like segregated land-use and zoning (i.e. building residential here and industrial there), the design of suburban communities and abandoning transit in favour of auto-oriented development.  

Over the past several months I have had conversations with Art Froese (Planning Director 1983 to 1988), Bob Holmes (Planning Commissioner, 1988 to 2001), Richard Parker (City planner from 1974 to 2003, Director of Planning from 1988 to 2003) and Barry Lester (private sector engineer in Calgary since 1978), as well as several other architects, engineers, planners and developers who have played a role in shaping our City. 

RELATED: Calgary planning: Mistakes and missed opportunities: Part 1 – Calgary’s Municipal Railway

University of Calgary / Foothills Medical Centre

The main building of the Foothills Medical Centre opened in June 1966, at the same time the nearby University of Calgary campus was being developed just a kilometer away.  Both were provincial initiatives that could easily have been combined to create something special, something innovative.

Froese was a strong proponent that, “the integration of the two campuses would have created a critical mass of learning facilities, better connectivity between faculties and an urban hub in the northwest quadrant of the city.”

Holmes laments that, “the Foothills Medical Centre has grown incrementally since 1966 without a master plan, resulting in a campus that is currently disorganized, functionally inefficient, and a source of frustration for patients, visiting public and most staff.”

Indeed, nobody envisioned it would grow to become the busiest hospital site in Canada with 15,000 employees, 16 buildings, and over 700,000 outpatient visits annually. (Source: Bruce Conway, Media Relations, Foothills Medical Centre).

And, who could have imagined the University of Calgary would grow to accommodate 30,000 students, 5,000 employees, 250+ programs and 50+ buildings.  

The new cancer centre will only add to the chaos.  

With a little bit of luck and entrepreneurialism, Calgary could have become an international medical/wellness hub, rivalling its reputation as an oil and gas centre.