Nelson: Are we wasting money trying to build up Calgary’s downtown?


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Calgary metropolis council has sung the identical previous tune for years: neglect all of your troubles, neglect all of your cares and go downtown.

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Little doubt Petula Clark followers will now be buzzing the tune, identical to numerous councillors down the a long time. But the phrases invariably fall upon deaf ears.

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That’s as a result of we don’t wish to go downtown. We by no means have. Probably not.

Positive, numerous us find yourself there for work causes, unavoidable enterprise lunches and breakfasts or the occasional theatre go to. However we’re more than pleased in our personal little neck of this big wooden referred to as Calgary.

And therein lies the conundrum, one which at present’s council is but once more exposing with its newest push to get us salivating in anticipation of a go to to the core.

It hasn’t labored up to now, it isn’t working now and, regardless of all of the shiny brochures metropolis corridor produces purporting to showcase a thriving, bustling future downtown, is unlikely to work in years to return.

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And whose fault is that? Effectively, those self same metropolis councils, stretching again since this bend on the Bow first turned a metropolis. And possibly we should always have a good time that failure, contemplating Calgary was lately named the third-best place on the planet through which to reside. (Hey, there are many cities with extraordinarily full of life downtowns that you just wouldn’t be caught useless in. Effectively, truly you may.)

However earlier than questioning why we don’t soar for pleasure on the mere point out of downtown, let’s study the most recent civic technique for tempting us to go to the core.

Town launched a summer time advertising and marketing marketing campaign referred to as Expertise Downtown YYC, at a value of $70,000. They reckon it was a hit, however then they might.

But when it got here to Calgarians’ largest bugbear — the price and issue in parking — we bought the standard combined messages. Sure, a couple of out-of-the-way heaps diminished charges as a part of that marketing campaign, however metropolis corridor stated they couldn’t supply decrease charges typically throughout the week as a result of it’d discourage individuals from strolling or taking transit. Sure, we wish you downtown however not sufficient to make it straightforward so that you can truly get right here. Go determine.

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In truth, in the case of working downtown, we is perhaps going backwards, given the societal shift brought on by the pandemic in turning work-from-home right into a needed actuality moderately than some pie-in-the-sky futuristic dream.

Positive, many folks have gone again to the workplace, however a large quantity haven’t and by now that improvement is a fixture within the eyes of people and companies. (Some may marvel, given this development, if we nonetheless must spend untold billions on a brand new transit line, however that’s a column for an additional day.)

Nonetheless, one other current transfer by council greatest encompasses your entire challenge of selling downtown vibrancy, much more than its weird strategy to parking.

Just lately, 5 proposed greenfield housing tasks had been authorised. These, by their very nature, will proceed on the outskirts of our metropolis.

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It has been this fashion from Calgary’s inception. There have been no geographical causes to forestall us rising ever wider, nor different settlements of any measurement we couldn’t merely take up into this new metropolis. (Some day, the Rockies may cease us, however we’ve a methods to develop earlier than arriving at that little hurdle.)

We’re so huge that if planning a visit from the deep south to the far north of Calgary, it could be sensible to pack a picnic lunch.

So, if the assorted councils of their day needed to actually populate downtown, they might have balked, way back, at constantly permitting improvement on town’s outskirts, constructing houses the place you’d want a telescope to identify the Calgary Tower.

However permit this newest improvement they did. Why? As a result of Calgarians need it. Not simply the builders but in addition these younger households that hold transferring right here for a brighter future and wish inexpensive houses with backyards and good neighbours like themselves.

Hey, and if they need Downtown, there’s at all times Petula Clark.

Chris Nelson is a daily columnist for the Calgary Herald.


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