Coun. Davison to pitch financial aid to boost downtown Calgary development

Calgary's downtown office space sits at roughly 25 per cent vacancy

City of Calgary overhead view of the skyline - Dec. 31, 2018. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Councillor Jeff Davison wants financial incentives to spur high-density housing in downtown Calgary, and encourage conversion of office space to residential.

The notice of motion is set for Calgary city council’s Monday meeting. In it, Davison want’s city administration to explore the use of incentives to encourage more private investment.

“Encouraging an active and vibrant population base in the downtown is critical for the success of long-term City infrastructure investments, for preserving property values, and for providing the City with a more stable stream of tax revenue,” Davison said in a prepared release.


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Calgary’s downtown has been staggering along with a vacancy rate of between 25 and 30 per cent since 2015.

That’s led to a dramatic drop in property values in the core and a loss of millions in city revenue. The result is that the tax burden has been shifted to other smaller businesses across the city.

Calgary-based Strategic Group has done office conversions in Calgary. They converted an unused seven-storey building in downtown Calgary into rental apartments.

But, a piece from a year ago in Real Estate News Exchange, showed that the appetite for conversions hasn’t been robust. Design challenges stand in the way, the article read.

Still, Coun. Davison is hopeful this is a step in the right direction.

The city is putting hundreds of millions into the downtown area, with the new Event Centre development, the BMO Centre Expansion, Arts Commons Transformation and the Central Library. 

Perhaps, in 2021, the Green Line will have shovels in the ground.

“Encouraging private industry to invest now in residential projects in the downtown preserves the overall health of our City,” Davison said.

“Calgary must remain diligent, our downtown situation will take years to fix, but we must act now if we are to achieve a successful recovery.”

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