A toolkit for urban change

A new guidebook aims to inspire great communities.

Cities across North America are trying to encourage growth in established areas. It’s a way to accommodate new residents while managing growth. 

In some places, the changes have been sweeping. Minneapolis recently eliminated single-family zoning across the city. That means duplexes and triplexes are legal anywhere in the city. (Single-family homes are also permitted city-wide) 

From a city-building perspective, it makes good sense. Housing more people in developed areas cuts down on servicing costs. Infrastructure like roads and sewers is already in place. Some of it will need upgrading, but that can be done without huge investments. 

Using existing infrastructure also helps municipalities reach their sustainability targets. In Calgary, those goals relate to things like smart growth, mobility and water quality. To make it easier, The City has taken a multi-community approach to planning. The pilot project is the North Hill Multi-Community Plan. It will likely go to council for approval in early spring. 

The broad direction for Calgary’s growth is set by the Municipal Development Plan. It set goals that inform a range of other policies. Currently, The City is refining its Guidebook for Great Communities. The guidebook “directs how Calgary will evolve and change.” In turn, this direction informs the Local Area Plans (LAP). The LAP takes a detailed approach. It identifies things like what parts of a community are suitable for more houses, commercial development or recreational facilities.

The tools are in place, but none of this is easy. Building in developed areas means building beside neighbours. Residents can be wary of changes to places they have lived for years. Even gentle density, which adds people with minimal impact to the community, can be contentious. 

To smooth the process, areas need to see more than increased density. There have to be new amenities and improved streetscapes as well. The Guidebook outlines policies in areas like cycling, transit and parking. The City is developing a permanent way to fund these improvements. 

The Guidebook is just that — a guide. It creates a framework for debates about how Calgary will grow as a city. It’s a people-centred approach that seeks to make Calgary a city of great communities. 

February 13th, 2020

Guiding development in Calgary’s established areas.