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$200 million sought for Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan

Calgary city council will consider an administration proposal for $200 million in funding for the Greater Downtown Strategy.

The strategy was first presented April 8 at the Planning and Urban Development (PUD) committee. At that time, the plan was sent to the April 26 Strategic Meeting of Council. The 115-page amended version will be presented at that meeting.

It would also come with a funding request.  Previously, Thom Mahler, the City of Calgary’s manager of Urban Initiatives said the ask would be substantial.

RELATED STORY: Greater Downtown Plan approved at committee

“We need to make a start somewhere and the start has to be big enough that it’ll make some impact,” he said in an interview with LiveWire Calgary in early April.

The plan calls for $60 million from the city’s budget savings account, $63 million from the Fiscal Stability Reserve (FSR) and $77 million from the Canada Community Building Fund. The latter is subject to receipt of a 2021 increase.

The $200 million is just an initial investment.

Over the next 10 years, the city estimates that it will take $1billion to get the downtown on track. 

They expect up to $500 million to address office vacancy and another $500 million for downtown vibrancy infrastructure and amenities. But, it doesn’t appear that will all come from city coffers.

“The initial investment proposed in the report represents only 20 percent of the overall need to get started,” the admin report reads.

“We will need to look hard at alternate sources of funding and support from other orders of government to help address 80 percent of the funding gap.”

It’s an investment, not a ‘spend’, says Coun. Sutherland

Ward 1 Coun. Ward Sutherland hopes council votes in favour of the funding package. He said while the price tag seems high, it’s a small price to pay to move the downtown forward.

Sutherland said citizens, especially those in the largely suburban communities he serves, may wonder why the city would spend this kind of cash in the downtown.

“The fact is, as the downtown loses its value and deteriorates, my taxes go up automatically. And that’s without the city spending one more dime,” he said.

“People need to understand that the vibrancy of the downtown directly affects them financially.”

Sutherland’s referring to the downtown tax shift. That scenario saw billions in property value sucked from the core when Calgary’s economy cratered. With the city’s revenue-neutral taxation system, they still needed the money from somewhere. The city then shifted a greater share of the tax burden to homeowners.

“By regaining the value of downtown, it takes off the tax burden that has been spread throughout the city,” he said.

“It’s just math.”