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Farrell wins award for downtown work; new DT plan director named

Druh Farrell likened the delivery of Calgary’s Downtown Strategy to giving birth to a chair.

And she said now it’s time to pass that chair along for the next family to care for it.

Farrell, the long-time former councillor for Ward 7, spent years helping craft the city’s recently approved greater downtown plan, and now she’s being recognized internationally for her work.

The honour comes from the International Downtown Association, at its 67th annual conference last week. Farrell was one of two recipients of the 2021 Inspired Leader Award.

“Councillor Farrell’s tenacity and willingness to work with other city leaders helped to cement her win as one of this year’s Inspired Leaders,” said David Downey, IDA President and CEO, in a prepared release.

The award recognizes those contributors that have shown leadership in addressing issues impacting life in downtown centres.

Farrell said she had no idea the award was in the works.

“I can’t believe how this fairly large group of people who had nominated me in working on this award, kept it secret this summer,” Farrell told LiveWire Calgary.

“It was a huge surprise. And it was just a wonderful surprise.”

Farrell said she’s confident the next group of councillors will continue implementing a plan to revitalize Calgary’s downtown. For too long the downtown has been living in the past, she said.

“It took a long time for a lot of people to let go of the past. But I believe that that’s happened and that’s a good thing,” she said.

“It’s now time for a new generation of leaders to take the reins.”

Downtown Strategy has a new director

One of the Greater Downtown Strategy architects, Thom Mahler, was named as the director of the city’s new Downtown Strategy business unit.

The city said the selection was made after a thorough, extensive recruitment process.

“Thom has been leading The City’s Downtown Strategy team from its inception and has effectively built partnerships focused on leading our downtown’s roadmap to reinvention,” said Stuart Dalgleish, deputy city manager and general manager of Planning and Development for The City, in a prepared release.

“His passion for our downtown has helped the team to begin to tackle the challenges our downtown has been facing.”

Mahler has been with the city for more than 20 years. In this new role, he’ll be responsible for executing the city’s investment in Calgary’s downtown.

He characterized it as a “dream job.”

“My focus in this role is to help build a downtown for all Calgarians,” said Mahler.

“There are many people, businesses, and organizations that have a stake in the downtown’s future success and working with these groups to reinvent downtown is my priority.”

Farrell said the new council makeup now offers the opportunity to add in the different perspectives. She said it will be extremely valuable.

“The youth and new ideas that they bring to the table are exciting,” she said.

“So I have all confidence in this new group of councillors and our new mayor that they’ll bring their own creativity to the downtown.”