City builders discuss the MDP
City Council sets policy, but Calgary grows project by project. How do those match up?
Anyone interested in how Calgary is changing and how it will continue to grow in, out and up should check out the most recent episode of Common Ground YYC.
The podcast is hosted by Josh White of Dream Development, who sits down with:
- Alkarim Devani of RNDSQR, a developer working in Calgary’s established areas;
- Peter Schryvers, an author and senior planner with the City of Calgary;
- Joel Tiedemann, development manager with Anthem Properties;
- Bob van Wegen, executive director, Marda Loop Business Improvement Area.
Their lively discussion of the state of growth in Calgary is framed by the City’s Municipal Development Plan, in particular its goals of:
- seeing 1/3 of population growth accommodated in Developed Areas by 2039;
- seeing1/2 of that growth accommodated in those areas by 2069.
It’s a steep challenge in part because of the affordability issue. “Price is king when markets are down,” Devani says. “We’ll never be able to provide the sheer affordability that the suburbs provide.” That means he would like to see the City offer incentives to developers working in established areas. “We need better ways to compete with new growth,” he says.
Van Wegen feels a good place for the City to start would be reinvesting in the public realm to make established areas like Marda Loop more attractive. “What we need in our area is more people living nearby,” he says. “Our merchants depend on the neighbourhood and the neighbourhood depends on the merchants.”
The recent City budget limited these kinds of investments. But even without them, established areas will continue to change. Devani says RNDSQR is building townhomes and rowhouses to fill a void in the market. Joel Tiedemann, of Anthem, notes the company is “tempering our vision a bit,” building townhomes in established areas as well as large-scale projects. The reason is simple: “There is demand for it,” Tiedemann says. “I think it’s the future of development in this city.”
It may be the future, but that doesn’t mean suburban development will stop. Schryvers makes the point that the MDP “is not a value judgment.” It seeks simply to balance Calgary’s growth. He also feels the notion that suburbanites and urbanites are opposed to each other is “a false dichotomy.”
The other podcast participants share this view. As Devani says, “I don’t have a hate for the suburbs, but I would say I do have this newfound love for the established areas and I want to figure out a way to make them more inclusive for people.”