Are you engaged?
Talking and listening are key parts of the redevelopment process.
The considerations developers face when undertaking a new project are nearly infinite. There are zoning considerations, building permits to secure and deposits to pay. There are also many issues related to design, financing and construction.
Then there are the neighbours. Developers working in the inner-city need to consult residents about proposed changes. That can be tricky because people often resist change in their neighbourhoods.
Residents worry about increased traffic or a lack of parking. But there are bigger issues at play in Calgary’s older neighbourhoods. Growth in the city is governed by the Municipal Development Plan (MDP). It wants to see half of new population growth settle in established areas. (It defines these areas as those built before 1990.)
To achieve that, those areas are going to become denser. They are also going to have to appeal to new residents and the developers who will build them new homes. Residents often want more amenities in exchange for density. Developers want less red tape so they can build affordable homes.
So how do we satisfy both these groups and still meet the goals of the MDP? As usual in these matters, there is a long and a short answer. The long answer involves policies planning, bylaws and other regulations. The short answer is: talk, talk, talk.
The City of Calgary knows that community engagement is key. It lets everyone—City Administration, citizens and developers—share their views. That is the first step in smoothing out the sore points around development.
The engagement process involves many forms of contact. There is the City’s Development Map, which displays land use redesignations and building permits across the city. The Engage website offers information and asks for feedback on projects.
The City is also working on the Community Outreach on Planning & Development Toolkit. It’s an ambitious effort that seeks to improve the engagement process. The toolkit has a few components. The Applicant Outreach Toolkit helps developers determine the extent of community outreach needed. The Community Involvement Toolkit is aimed at helping residents get involved in the planning process.
All these efforts share a common goal. As the City says, the point of engagement is not that everyone gets their way. It’s that everyone gets heard. That means there will still be debate, but hopefully future development will be less confrontational.