Building Our City
Guy Huntingford, CEO of BILD Calgary Region, shares his insights on the future of development in Calgary.
Building Our City Together,’ a City of Calgary EXPO in March 2017, was an opportunity to learn more about the roles The City and industry play in building our city together. BILD Calgary Region CEO Guy Huntingford joined a panel discussion, with City Manager, Jeff Fielding, and Federation of Calgary Communities Executive Director, Leslie Evans, on how they work together. It was all about how they can improve collaborative efforts, untapped opportunities, and align future focuses.
We’ve captured Guy Huntingford’s views in a Q&A.
Tell us a bit about BILD Calgary Region.
BILD (or Building Industry Land Development) Calgary Region is a not-for-profit organization representing the region’s building industry. We’re made up of more than 700 members, including residential, commercial and industrial developers and builders from Calgary, south to High River, east to Strathmore, north to Airdrie and west to Cochrane. Our members have a wealth of knowledge on all aspects of building and marketing, and on what consumers are looking for.
What do you see as BILD Calgary Region’s main role?
Our role is to represent our members’ interests, and to work with The City of Calgary to provide a regulatory and process environment that helps meet the goals of both parties. We work with all levels of City administration, especially the Planning & Development team, to ensure the marketplace has adequate supply, choice, affordability and dispersion of product.
When it comes to developing and building in the Calgary Region, what is one thing you would like to see The City do differently?
The members of BILD would like to see a streamlining and thorough review of all current policies. We’re concerned with what we call “policy creep.” Policy in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s completely necessary. But when policy is layered on more policy and not considered in a collective sense, the sheer volume can be overwhelming. It’s especially problematic when one business unit or department creates a policy that conflicts with that of another department.
Are there things you would like to see the Federation of Calgary Communities (FCC) do differently?
I think BILD and the FCC need to be more collaborative in our approach to developed areas. Redevelopment in a community is always a concern for the residents who live there, no matter what the project. So, making sure the FCC knows what developers and builders are proposing in terms of built forms and micro development in different segments of the Calgary Region will help with public consultations and the vision for established communities.
In light of the current economic climate and the ongoing changes Calgary continues to face, where do you think we should be focusing our immediate planning and development efforts?
We are approaching 30% vacancy and 10 million square feet of empty space in the city centre. As a result, the non-residential property tax pot has been decimated, and I don’t see City Council suddenly approving large residential property tax increases and utility rate increases to make up for that lost revenue. So, anything we can do to repurpose and revitalize the city centre – to provide a new revenue stream – should be at the top of the list.
Any suggestions for how to go about revitalizing downtown?
We’ve talked about creating a “policy free” zone in the city centre, where developers and builders can come forward with innovative ideas and The City will look at those ideas without dismissing them due to current policies or regulations.
From your members’ standpoint, are there any pressing needs or issues when it comes to new or developing communities?
One issue that immediately comes to mind for developing areas is The City’s current target for fire-response time. The seven-minute response time should be seen clearly as a goal, and not as an intractable time-limit, because right now, if a developing area is over that target time, it literally causes a lack of investment in that area, and the overhead to get started in the face of those fire requirements is prohibitive. I think there should be some flexibility and acknowledgement that the province’s 10-minute response time could be used as a target to get the community started, with the aim of eventually achieving the seven-minute response time The City wants.
What do you see as the biggest untapped opportunity as we build our city and region for the future?
There are two. First, we have invested $2 billion in our airport and have advanced its capabilities for handling commercial cargo. Let’s leverage that. We need to work with the region’s municipalities through the new Growth Management Framework to leverage our inland port and our ability to create a powerhouse of diverse industries using our wealth of industrial lands. This could be a saviour for our required tax base.
And the second untapped opportunity?
Calgary is ranked as one of the “Top Five” cities in the world, and we need to leverage this international status to attract new head offices and businesses. Not only should we be increasing our marketing efforts around this ranking, we should also be creating real incentives, like tax-free zones and help for accelerators and incubators that want to move here. We must also ensure that business campuses for these companies are fast-tracked through the approvals process. No matter what the case, coordination and collaboration will always provide better outcomes and smoother approval processes.
Learn more about BILD Calgary Region