Vibrant Communities Equal a Thriving Economy

A compact YYC brings economic benefits.

In both urban and suburban centres, vibrant, dense, mixed-use areas can be a recipe for economic growth. Usually called “complete communities,” neighbourhoods that draw a diversity of talent also attract high-growth businesses and organizations.

A new study, carried out in Washington, D.C. by Emil Malizia of the University of North Carolina and Yasuyuki Motoyama of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, found that the density of high-growth firms is greatest in communities considered to be “vibrant,” regardless of their location in relation to “downtown.”

What’s a vibrant community? According to a Citylab article by Richard Florida, vibrancy depends on several factors:

“Vibrant neighborhoods are dense and compact, feature a diversity of land uses (i.e. office, retail, entertainment, and industrial spaces), are a short distance from transit, and have dense street intersections, among other characteristics.”

The results of the study are a reminder that we tend to oversimplify the dichotomy between urban and suburban. The more complex picture is more about “nodes of vibrancy,” regardless of location.

In Calgary, we have older complete communities like Kensington and Inglewood, but more and more are popping up further out. Garrison Woods, Currie Barracks, McKenzie Town and Quarry Park are a few examples of areas that boast energized communities with thriving businesses nearby.

Calgary’s Municipal Development Plan calls for compact communities to reduce strain on land, resources and infrastructure – but it also creates economic health. And in older neighbourhoods, redevelopment is helping to bring back the vibrancy that existed when these neighbourhoods were built – and housed a much larger population than they do now.

Simply put, it is the vibrancy of a neighborhood—not whether it’s urban or suburban—that attracts high-growth firms and helps bolster a high-growth regional economy.

May 25th, 2016
Updated: September 14th, 2017