Bringing New Energy to Downtown Calgary

With Calgary’s downtown office vacancy rate at levels not seen since the Great Depression, it will take direct and immediate action to bring people back into the downtown core and restore a sense of vibrancy.

Jurisdictions across North America have also faced persistently high downtown office vacancy rates and have taken steps to successfully address the issue. However, the rate of office vacancies in Calgary is one of the highest ever recorded in North America, which presents a unique challenge for the city.

The City of Calgary has already developed and started its own plan to bring people into downtown and lower the office vacancy rate. To date, the provincial government has offered very little in support and details on how it will support downtown Calgary.


Given the importance of Calgary’s downtown to the city and the provincial economy, we are putting forward a series of proposals to revitalize Calgary’s downtown.

Revitalizing downtown Calgary will also take time and hard work, but with our entrepreneurial spirit and our greatest resource — our people — we can restore vibrancy, bring a new energy into downtown Calgary, and continue to generate prosperity for our province. - Rachel Notley 

Summary of Proposals 

  1. Supporting office conversions by matching a further $100 million to the City’s
    existing plan;
  2. Matching the City’s $55-million investment to improve public places and restore
    vibrancy to the area;
  3. Making economic diversification a priority;
  4. Supporting the creation of a world-class innovation district by working with Calgary post-secondary institutions to relocate or expand campuses downtown;
  5. Creating additional child care spaces downtown;
  6. Growing affordable housing downtown through dedicated funding while working with the City and developers to leverage investment for office conversions;
  7. Investing in mental health and addictions and reduce barriers to accessing services;
  8. Supporting small businesses to move downtown or revitalize through targeted
    grants;
  9. Bringing more events and festivals into Calgary’s downtown;
  10. Exploring a cost-sharing agreement for the Calgary-Banff rail line.

When combined with our young, diverse, and educated population, and innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, we have an opportunity to show the world what Calgarians already know: that this is THE best city in the world to live. But in order to do so, we need bold and innovative ideas. - Municipal Affairs Critic Joe Ceci

We recognize the work that was done was merely a start. We encourage each and every one of you to read the policy proposal careful and provide feedback. 

Leave a Comment

Dawn

Posted

The whole plan to "revitalize" downtown seems like a love-letter to landlords who have overpriced their properties and pushed small, unique business and residential OUT of downtown - hence making downtown Calgary more and more like the after-6pm desert that is YEG downtown. Downtown shopping areas are no different from any other suburban mall, because those are the only businesses that can afford to subsidize the rent for the 'cachet' of having a downtown location. Before investing our money in this, to subsidize landlords... looking at how many building permits are being granted for NEW construction on the outer edges of the city should be investigated. It is ridiculous to spend money on spaces in downtown that people won't be able to afford while still spreading out into neighbourhoods that are transit inaccessible, car-dependent, have no schools, have no grocery, doctors offices, or other regular needed amenities... just because it's affordable. Are all of these office towers going to be renovated to include balconies, rooftop common spaces, etc (not that that might even be safe for all of them..) - because people need green space, they need air. They need to live in places where they can breath. And already many areas in Calgary's downtown are a fresh food desert - without community gardens, etc - this will just contribute to this. The ending of the Car-To-Go program also seems foolish in light of this idea... (& Calgary's climate change programs) increased residential use downtown - with most areas not an easy walk in Calgary's winter to grocery stores - with inadequate parking for residents means a car rental / car sharing program is vital. Speaking of parking.... most office towers downtown have completely inadequate parking for the people who work there... will even more residents downtown be forced to park blocks away from their homes, or will this 'revitalization' also include building suitable parking for residents? While transit is a great option for many - it is also increasingly unsafe and unreliable. Waiting 25 minutes for a late bus at a stop with no shelter is not an option for many Calgarians in winter. Drug deals, assault, harassment, smoking, overdoses, theft, and other disturbing behaviors on c-train stations and in c-train cars - with completely ineffective security response is becoming commonplace. How "revitalized" can a downtown be, when people are unable to safely travel around? People in Calgary need cars. Even people who WORK for Calgary transit don't take it - even when they get free bus passes as part of their employment. Speaking of winter - let's address all of the +15 routes that are CLOSED in the evening and weekends. These are vital to allow people to safely move around downtown in the winter, and should be open - and staffed with security and Bear Clan Patrol - when the people who "live and work" downtown need to move around - 4am - 3am, Monday-Sunday. Also.. this entire plan seems to completely overlook how UNSAFE downtown Calgary is for women, disabled people, the elderly, people of colour... both in the daytime and at night. Why would people spend excessive money on rent, for an apartment they don't feel safe leaving after 7pm? Why would businesses invest in their businesses considering the high parking costs, poor transportation routes, high rent, and whatnot, if their patrons feel safer driving to a mall or professional service office instead of taking a 60 minute bus+ train ride? There are already multiple educational campus' downtown... both accredited (Uof C, Bow Valley, Olds College) and unaccredited - Cambrooks College, ACE College, MC College, East West College, Bredin College, VCAD, ERP College, CDI... etc.. etc... etc... How exactly will the 9-5 nature of full-time post-secondary a) take the strain off the existing parking and transportation issues, b) improve transit use in the downtown area, or c) revitalize downtown after 6pm? Take a look at how active MRU is after 5pm or on the weekend. Look at how many businesses near MRU benefit from students and staff - the campus is a dead zone after 5pm - these students are NOT contributing to the neighbourhood - they drive to class, go to class, and go home. (And park illegally in different areas hoping not to get a ticket by the ineffective bylaw support...creating hassles for the people who live and work in the area.) ... and festivals? Look at an event calendar. There is practically a festival every weekend in Calgary's downtown in the summer - and again, there are few locations that are suitable for festivals that don't negatively impact the neighbourhoods they're in. Is the aim to bring people INTO Downtown who live elsewhere (who then need parking and/or transit) or to give people who live there something to do?

bryan keith

Posted

Well, you’ve certainly got my vote.

Patricia

Posted

Before anyone starts planning to put in a downtown campus, the City of Calgary needs to fix the transit problems so there isn’t a massive influx of vehicles. Apart from the issues with the sketchy drunks and drug users on the trains (more security needed) you will never attract people to transit with the current schedules. Buses here are so infrequent, they’re not worth considering. Trains only run every 15-22 minutes, depending on the day and time. Standing on an open platform in winter for 15-22 minutes falls somewhere between unpleasant and life-threatening. Until recently, I lived in Vancouver for many years and the trains run every 2-4 minutes at peak times and every 6 minutes off-peak and on weekends. Buses in the west end and downtown run every 5-8 minutes. It’s so efficient that most people don’t bother owning a car. So, please think about how they will get here before you think about dumping a few thousand extra people into the city centre.

Ted

Posted

Kim Payne nailed it with the comment about the C-train - it appears the paint is the original that's never been maintained or touched up. Dilapidated stations are not nice places to be and send a strong message about what's important.

Jan

Posted

Calgary needs more green spaces downtown and more sidewalk space. It’s not a walkable area.

Brittany Reid

Posted

Awesome

Elaine Miklos

Posted

What every city needs. More green. More flowers in planters. More sidewalk restaurants. Less advertising more Art.

Julie figures

Posted

Agree with proposals. Downtown along 7th Ave looks sad and uninviting - it needs to look more vibrant to make me want to go there.

Mary Nokleby

Posted

Sounds like some good ideas and sound strategy. I was interested to learn that this vacancy issue is a problem in lots of cities. Were we overly optimistic about the number of office workers we'd be needing or what??? Seems to me we were building stupid...for growth that hasn't occurred, while ignoring the real needs for affordable housing AND business spaces in our city. This plan sounds like a start, but I wonder??? How liveable for any but the young and temporarily single, are these empty office spaces??? I'd love to see some floorplans on line...as to how they exist now, and what a good architect would do to convert them to living spaces.

Bob Ascah

Posted

These are all great inspirational spending programs and few voters would diadem with this. .I know I sound like a broken record on this but HOW DO WE PAY FOR THIS? On the more general issue of municipal politics- I think that any municipal capital grants must require solar panels, cladding on all new buildings and refurbishments. I like the comments about urban agriculture. Whether real estate developers whose overbuilding was exposed in the 2015 downturn receive public funds to reconfigure is an important ?

Branka Koruga-Lazarevic

Posted

I am totally agree about your approach and vision on required actions that needs to start immediately and no more waisting time in order to change present difficulat conditions .

Kim Payne

Posted

I recently took the C-train downtown with 2 friends to take in an exhibit at the Glenbow satellite space at the Edison building across from the Palliser. I found the C-train stations to be dirty and was embarrassed to think that tourists to our city would think the same. During TV coverage of the Flames first playoff game, there was a beautiful evening shot with a view down the river and the C-train crossing the bridge over the Bow. It was the kind of photo that organizations use to entice tourists to our city. But what I experienced using the C-train is that the stations, especially those downtown, are dingy, dismal, disgraceful and deplorable. I have a couple of suggestions to spruce up the stations: 1. Find ways to add colour to predominantly gray, cement areas. The metal traffic control boxes around the city have been beautifully transformed by local artists! 2. Regularly hose down and clean up the areas. 3. If the stations are adjacent to buildings, have the landlords work with the city to brighten up, enhance the wall/windows. Put out calls for artists to submit their ideas on how to accomplish this.

Janice M

Posted

Calgary needs to stop urban sprawl ! The cost of this sprawl is enormous to our city and to tax payers living closer to downtown. The city should consider a progressive property tax system with people paying progressive higher taxes the further they live from the city core. Focus should be on developing a more interesting city not necessarily a larger one. I like the ideas relating to more people living down town, encouraging small businesses down town and developing green spaces. Calgary’s DT is not an interesting place to explore or shop. Interesting shops can be found in some areas such Kensington , Inglewood and the Mission area ( 4th ave).

kasia krowicki

Posted

The new energy that NEEDS to be brung to the city is renewable energy. Community gardens, on rooftops, at schools, hanging vertical gardens on balconies, abundance of pollinators, collecting rainwater, and surfaces covered in solar paint. The coexistence of people and nature is how all life can be sustained. There is no more important issue than tackling our climate crisis.

kasia krowicki

Posted

The city of Calgary should be investing its millions into urban agriculture. It’s time we take REAL ACTION against the climate crisis and start planning for a prosperous future. If we want to actually be the best city in the world, we need to show leadership and initiate a green future. Citizens are scared. Fossil fuels have expired. Make the city bike friendly and do everything we can in the downtown space to bring people together.

Brad Gaulin

Posted

If you can't do something about parking then nothing will change. I won't move my offices back downtown as the cost to my staff for parking almost doubles my overhead. We have BRT near me, but they cut us from 6 buses to 1, so less people take it now to downtown. So don't tell me about public transit, more money spent with less services is not an answer for downtown.

ac

Posted

RE #4: All levels of government and alumni have paid for huge campus expansions at all of Calgary's post-secondary institutions over the past 3 decades. This is not a good use of taxpayer's money from any level of government. RE #5 and 6: these seem like top priority items for existing square footage downtown. RE #7: we and our son are "vulnerable" citizens due to the complete out-of-control nature of anti-social behaviour in the inner city. Encampments, loitering, drug abuse and the associated debris in public spaces on account of these behaviours being left to grow and escalate makes every other citizen "at risk" in public space; safety on transit, in parks, children exploring natural areas, etc. Feces, needles and SO much garbage in such a beautiful city, that's worked hard to maintain incredible green spaces is a total shame. Regular sweeps of feet on the ground, cleaning up, dispersing (aka communicating this behaviour is not ok), will help make 99% of Calgarians safer and feel more welcome and it's the *biggest problem with inner city/core living *and recreation. RE #10: A Banff-Calgary line is unreasonable expense and infrastructure, unrelated to the Calgary "Core". Calgary transit (already paid for by municipal and provincial budgets) can't even get passengers efficiently to YYC, which is absurd. I'm hopeful that you please take these opinions into account in your discussion and planning. Thank you.

Laszlo Jamniczky

Posted

- Work with municipalities to improve the "charter" so as to give municipalities more financial flexibility to rise operating funding so they don't rely solely on property tax for operations. Cities have been great at obtaining funds for capital projects but then they don't money to maintain the facilities/infrastructure and it goes into disrepair. - Identify what are the barriers to economic diversification and work on eliminating such barriers so that new industries move to the province and consequently to the cities. Leave the details for improving the cities to the municipalities themselves who are more in touch with their residents. - Introduce policies and regulations that protect the air, water, land and animal species so that the province becomes an attractive place to live in. - Work with other levels of government to support reduction in financial inequality among citizens so that everybody sees a better future for themselves. This involves taxation, education and health care including mental, vision, dental health. - Work with other levels of government to introduce policies and regulations to reduce the province's carbon footprint. This will help young people to be more interested in coming to Alberta if they see it as a progressive space.

Sydney Goss

Posted

I remember Calgary in the early 1950s. I was 4 or 5 years old. So different than Edmonton. People dancing in the streets. The smell of pancakes and coffee. Palomino horses shining in the early morning sunshine. Gingham skirts and embroidered cowboy shirts and leather boots.

Patricia J. Higgins

Posted

Grand plans indeed. Bringing people to live close to where they work will also take cars off the road and help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. That said, all these proposed changes will only work if there is sufficient political and individual will to carry them out. There is currently insufficient green space downtown - nor are there the shops, services, or recreational opportunities needed to convince people that a move in from the suburbs is desirable.

Heather Gillis

Posted

Walkability! Bikability! Excellent public transportation that works well. (DElighted to read about a Banff Calgary rail :) )Green spaces, green roofs, less cement and ashphalt and more four season reasons to be out and about for small to medium local businesses supporting local residents. Ramp up local delivery of local goods! Spend money locally. And big Yes to sufficient energy efficient AND wisely designed, affordable housing plus strong mental health and addictions support. Every person lost is a lifetime of skills, unique gifts and resources lost. Make profit PRO-FIT. Stabilize the economy because there ARE limits. Healthy communities support healthy people support resilience. Invite nature closer. Less grass more wild flowers. Bee friendly. YES to ramping up the quality and diversity of world class education available in Calgary (and surrounds). This next generation will need to be able to reflect and innovate with agility, speed and wisdom. The arts are also vital in supporting mental health, insight and connection.

Delfina Lambregts

Posted

The pandemic has changed the way people see work. The proposal must understand that people will no longer work or go to work in the same way. The idea of commuting to downtown is not something people want to deal with. A lot of people want to work from home and the appeal of commuting (poor Transit connections) or even shopping (Amazon is better) is no longer viable. In order to revitalize the downtown core of Calgary is to bring people to it by having people live there. Housing is the way to revitalize a downtown core. When people live in downtown then the downtown can revitalize. You need people and I mean people who will live, work and dream in the downtown core in order for the core to revitalize. Start with housing everything else is just a Band-Aid solution.

Brent Bartlett

Posted

Forward thinking and creative.

Ghaile Pocock

Posted

If you want to revitalize our downtown we need to diversify our economy. We need to attract other businesses and young people (our future workforce) to move here. Maybe this might mean promoting unique world class study programs at our colleges and universities. Or it could be providing grants and tax incentives for new innovative businesses. We have a film studio here and with our incredible natural areas we can simulate 10 different locales. We need to provide competitive tax incentives and remove the cap on project budgets. Pre-Covid Vancouver’s film industry did $4.5 billion while ours did $500 million. What about creating collaborative programs (business, education, sports or the arts) with other cities. This could open our city up to new distribution alliances for our products and services. A lot of innovative ideas come from small businesses. Small business have very small profit margins. We need to lower taxes on small businesses and create rental and other incentives. The small businesses of today become the larger businesses of tomorrow. With all of our baby boomers becoming seniors and retiring, we need to rebrand our city as a place young people can find employment, raise families and enjoy their leisure tine. We have a wonderful arts and culture scene, educational opportunities, lots of sports and leisure activities and outdoor spaces plus our proximity to the mountains. Although we are rooted with our ties to aboriginal people, farmers and ranchers, we are now ethnically diverse. We need to show others a new Calgary to attract them to invest their businesses here and make Calgary their home. We are so much more than oil and gas, and the Calgary Stampede.

Thomas Stollery

Posted

Can you add Proposal #11 - make public transit free in Calgary. It would definitely make downtown Calgary more accessible for thousands (workers and public).

Jan Martin

Posted

What about competitions for the best ideas. Universities and collages are full of people with creative ideas.

Don Andersen

Posted

I hate to point out the obvious, Calgary downtown got over built. Why is anyone recusing those that own the buildings. It was their decision, let them live it. Anything that is artificial and requires Govt money at start/keep alive will disappear when the money does.

Ross Risvold

Posted

The goals are desirable but I would also like to see how these can be achieved and be financially self-sustaining.

Chips Reid

Posted

Encourage new start up companies who are concentrating on designing , manufacturing , and selling renewable or alternate energies in Canada to consider relocating and expanding their enterprises by occupying the many available empty offices and/or warehouses in Calgary. Research the market and set up a team to contact these companies to sell them on this idea. There are so many unemployed technical people who were efficient and hard working in the Oil Patch who would be amenable to exit the Oil industry which is such a fragile industry right now if they didn't have to pick up their lives and families and move to Ontario, Quebec or BC.

Lucretia Martenet

Posted

I see one mention of something to help some of the homeless. We need more. I was part of starting a lunch program for street people at Hillhurst United, just across the river. Generally, these people were not looking for services, they were looking for food, acceptance and a safe place to be during the day away from drugs and alcohol. Many are afraid of the shelters which dump them out onto the street during the day with no where to go. Supported housing can be disrupted by people without mental control. Desperately need support, housing, food, community.

Pat Tarr

Posted

Affordable studio spaces for artists.

Patrick Mahaffey

Posted

I think all of your proposals are good. The most important are the first two, so as to increase the population in the downtown core. Both of these will be very difficult to achieve, and will require Provincial funding, just as you propose. The present conservative government has little understanding of the vital importance of cities to our economy and civilization, and of the importance of downtowns to successful cities.

Kim Williams

Posted

Change the feel, make it pleasant and enjoyable with green landscaping, fun lighting, and benches.

Howard Stanley

Posted

I live west of the city of Edmonton. Are roads here have been neglected for the last few years. Is there any money proposed for this problem? It's costing me and other rural Albertians money that we can't afford in auto repairs. ( Desperatly needed I infrastucture repairs. )

Herman Bininda

Posted

Make parking more affordable i.e. free parking after hours and on weekends. It would encourage people to go downtown to shop etc.

mohamed eltonsy

Posted

Convert offices to luxury apartments with great amenities and promote downtown living for young families

Jake Kuiken

Posted

1. move the entire LRT system underground south of the Bow River and north of 17th Ave and fundamentally repurpose 7th Ave as 'people space' 2. eliminate all surface parking in the downtown area from the Elbow River to 14th Street SW and the Bow River to the north and red 3. Review and reconsider the feasibility of the plan by George Steber (former director of Planning) for covering the 8th Ave Mall 4. Build playgrounds for families with children at strategic locations on the 8th Ave Mall. 5. Rename the numbered streets and avenues to recognize significant historical figures in Calgary's history beginning with the Indigenous peoples including the Metis. 6. Promote workplace related child development facilities and programs

Bal Boora

Posted

There won’t be a need for office space now and in the future due to the technological advances. More and more people will be working from homes. As a result, companies won’t need as much space for offices as it did earlier. If Calgary could fill the office spaces vacated by the oil companies, it would bring other secondary businesses to fill the spaces vacated by the similar secondary businesses. Convert some buildings in to affordable housing apartments. Make every space as affordable as possible.

Deirdre Halferty

Posted

What about lots of street theatre, busking and/or inter office fun lunch time competitions to create an ambiance of vitality and spirit. Free concerts at the library …. Just brain storming really. Deirdre