The Urban World

The growing population of cities presents challenges and opportunities.

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The world is moving to the city.

By 2050, 70% of the Earth’s population will live in cities. That’s up from a little over half today and represents an extra 2.5 billion people looking for a place to lay their heads. This trend has huge implications. Cities are not only home to billions of people, they are living labs in which new principles about urban design and growth are tested. 

Canada and Calgary are no exceptions. The 2016 census found that 83% of Canadians live in metropolitan regions. Calgary is the fourth largest census metropolitan area in the country. By 2076, it will be home to 2.4 million people, roughly double our current population. 

The challenge grows when you consider that the vast majority of us choose to settle in the suburbs. The Council for Canadian Urbanism says that between 2006 and 2016, 91% of Calgary’s growth occurred in the suburbs. This means that if The City of Calgary is going to achieve the goals of its Municipal Development Plan (MDP), the suburbs are going to change. They are going to be home to more people. They will also include businesses, restaurants, doctors’ offices and great parks. They have to become Complete Communities, places designed for efficiency. Complete Communities include offices and other places of work. That means they offer the possibility of shorter commutes. Or even walking to work. 

This change is underway in communities like Livingstone, Seton and the University District. It is also being planned into future communities. Providence is benefitting from the urban-design expertise of Calthorpe Associates.

But Complete Communities are not confined to the suburbs. Change is also afoot in developed areas. The MDP seeks to accommodate a third of new growth in established areas by 2039. That proportion rises to half by 2069. This means more people living in established communities. And that means there will be some opposition to new development.

Consultation and engagement are necessary to overcome this resistance to change. It’s important to remember that Complete Communities don’t just meet the needs of urban planners. They also satisfy people. Shorter commutes, more parks and other amenities promote mental health and social cohesion. In short, Complete Communities help you get along with your neighbours. That’s a good thing because you’re about to get a whole lot more of them.


May 14th, 2019

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