Same page: Mayor Gondek happy to see Alberta aligned with Calgary’s downtown plan

10 months of work went into the province's CORE working group study on Calgary's downtown

A garland remains on a bench overlooking the downtown core and Victoria Park at Scotsman's Hill in Calgary on Sunday, May 1, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Calgary’s mayor said it’s nice to see that everyone’s now on the same page with the city’s ailing downtown.

Alberta’s Calgary Office Revitalization and Expansion (CORE) Working Group delivered its final report Tuesday. The group was established in May 2021, months after the City of Calgary delivered its Greater Downtown Strategy.

The goal of the 28-page report was to help find solutions to the 32 per cent vacancy rate in the downtown office buildings and inject vibrancy into the area.

The provincial report identified four priorities for Calgary’s downtown:

  • Incentivizing real estate development
  • Supporting vibrant initiatives
  • Develop downtown diversity
  • Improve downtown safety, security and quality of life

(FULL REPORT AT THE END)

Several issues in each of the priority areas are outlined, along with potential solutions. Much of it is tied to funding. The funding solutions aren’t necessarily directed at the downtown revitalization, but adequate cash to those groups working in the issue areas.

“Calgary’s downtown has been the heart and soul of the city for decades. It’s where the Stampede parade happens, where business deals are made, and it’s the home of festivals and a lively cultural scene,” said Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, in a prepared release.

“We know that we must pursue real and substantive measures to ensure that it remains vibrant in the years to come.”

In this year’s provincial budget, there was $5 million earmarked to help Calgary’s downtown revitalization.

‘We’re building trust’: Mayor Gondek

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that this group echoed much of what was in the city’s downtown strategy.

She was glad to see that incentivizing downtown office conversions was in the report. The city awarded $31 million last month to developers converting 400,000 square feet to homes.

The inclusion of post-secondary expansion in the downtown was also an important component, the mayor said. The city has had conversations with Mount Royal, UCalgary and Ambrose University to engage them in the downtown.

“I can tell you that there is tremendous value to students that are closer to the people who will employ them into the future,” she said.

“And they’re closer to the types of things they need to see and interact with.” 

They also want to work with the social sciences students on some of the DT challenges like safety, mental health, addictions and housing.

The mayor would like to see some space available for non-profits and childcare spaces.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce also supported the report findings.

“We are pleased to see support for residential conversions, which would accelerate the investments already made by the City of Calgary,” said Deborah Yedlin, President and CEO.

“The Report’s focus on diversity and belonging for all Calgarians, including students, seniors, and low-income families accurately reflects the importance of inclusion in achieving our full economic potential.”

The mayor said this is a good step forward.

“I’m just happy that we are all on the same page about what we need to do with our downtown,” Mayor Gondek said Tuesday.

“I think by generating this kind of a report that is completely aligned with what the city has been doing, we’re building trust.”

CORE working group report by Darren Krause

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