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Mythbuster? Mayor Gondek meets with the province on Calgary’s downtown

Provincial officials met with the Mayor late last week to talk about Calgary's downtown - and other items.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said last week’s roundtable with members of the provincial government was a great chance to dispel myths around the downtown revitalization.

Earlier this month, Premier Danielle Smith had said that Calgary hadn’t come forward with specific proposals for the downtown.  She also expressed some concern that any money put forward for downtown conversions would go to Toronto-based real estate investment trust (REITs).

On Tuesday, during Question Period at the Strategic Meeting of Council, Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong asked the mayor about a roundtable discussion she had with Calgary MLAs.

The mayor said she hosted different stakeholders at the meeting last week. That group included Municipal Affairs Minister Rebecca Schulz, Jobs and Economy Minister Brian Jean, and Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides.

“It was a very productive discussion. We managed to dispel some myths,” the mayor said.

“There was this impression that the conversion program from office to residential was somehow shipping money eastward in Canada.”

The mayor brought up the recent example of Calgary-based Strategic Group’s conversion of the historic Barron building.

The mayor also brought up the developments by Calgary-based Aspen Properties and Peoplefirst Developments (along with Cidex) that kicked off Calgary’s downtown office conversion strategy one year ago.

“It is actually contributing to take up of that vacant space and increasing the assessed value of property,” Mayor Gondek said.

Good engagement going, the mayor said

Earlier this month, Premier Smith said that they’d provided the City of Calgary with funding for a number of capital budget requests.

In terms of the downtown, the Premier wanted to see firm proposals.

“I think if we indicate a willingness to look at those kinds of proposals, those proposals will come in. But we haven’t seen any proposals,” Premier Smith said.

“We can only respond with the actual proposals on the table and at the moment, we don’t have any of those.”

Mayor Gondek said this was a chance for everyone to get on the same page – or at least have the same set of information.

“It’s a rewarding process to sit down with various stakeholders and various ministers to make sure everyone is hearing the same thing at the same time and there’s no chance for misunderstandings or miscommunication,” she told media on Tuesday outside council chambers.

“I think we delivered a pretty solid message about why increased funding is needed. We provided some options to our provincial partners. We’ve got good engagement going and we’ll see what they come back with.”

In the City’s seven-page provincial budget submission delivered last November, they’d indicated at that time they wouldn’t be able to solely fund the planned downtown development incentive program.  

The mayor said the group also talked about some of the other infrastructure investments that would help the downtown, including arts and culture venues.