Resilience begins in the middle
The City of Calgary seeks to improve downtown for workers and residents alike.
Any fitness trainer will tell you that core strength is crucial for people looking to get in shape. The same is true for cities. And for both individuals and municipalities, strengthening central areas involves many planks.
In Calgary’s case, the policy planks include the Centre City Plan, the Economic Resilience Strategy and the Resilient Calgary Strategy. These work together to ensure the city’s downtown remains healthy and vibrant.
That is a bigger issue in the current economic climate than during boom times. The City’s approach acknowledges that urban areas are subject to unavoidable events. The key is to be able to absorb the blows and bounce back.
The Resilience Strategy distinguishes between shocks and stresses. Shocks are one-off, “acute” events like cyberattacks, severe weather incidents and economic crises. Stresses are chronic and recurring. They include climate change, economic uncertainty and homelessness.
All areas of the city are subject to these forces but, as Calgary’s business centre, the core has some unique challenges. The City and industry are addressing these on many fronts. The initiatives range from enhancing downtown underpasses and
encouraging new businesses to move in to the area.
The City’s definition of Centre City includes not only the commercial core and the west end but also the East Village, Beltline, Eau Claire and Chinatown. One notable success is the move to convert office buildings to apartment blocks.
A new initiative currently in its early stages involves rethinking Stephen Avenue. Part of the impetus for the project is the growth in the number of people living downtown. The street needs to please residents as well as office workers. The redesign is also meant to serve as a boost to economic recovery.
Those forces are also behind the Downtown Scorecards and the current updating of the Centre City Plan. That these plans are subject to change shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, resilience is all about being flexible in the face of changing circumstances.