I was intrigued by the results of the Citizen Perception Survey of the Centre City, which was conducted last year by Ipsos Reid.
To me, the success of a Centre City is what the citizens think of it. Such an area is the heart, soul and face of any city — it is critical to a city’s identity and civic pride.
Consequently, to me, the important finding of the survey was that 89 per cent of Centre City residents like to live there. You can’t get much better then that.
Eighty-nine per cent agreed that “the Centre City is a desirable place for me to live.”
This differs from Calgary as a whole, where the percentage was 43 per cent citywide.
A little digging and you find that 10 per cent of Calgarians are very or somewhat likely to relocate to the City Centre in the next three years.
This is a number I have been quoting for years as the market for urban living in Calgary — nice to see it verified.
You also find 80 per cent of those already living in City Centre are going to stay, with 20 per cent likely to move out.
Those moving out, I expect, are the “yuppies with puppies” who now want to have children (45 per cent of the people living downtown are between ages 20 to 39.)
All and all, the survey paints a very positive picture for our Centre City, which in turn is positive for all of Calgary.
Another significant result of the survey was that the Centre City’s parks, pathways and sidewalks were all given a satisfaction rating above 85 per cent.
Having clean, safe and attractive public places are critical to fulfilling the Centre City vision.
Where the city fell down was in satisfaction with the area’s LRT stations and bus stops — 63 and 58 per cent, respectively.
The recently completed upgrades to the 7th Avenue LRT corridor will hopefully increase public satisfaction when citizens are next surveyed.
In chatting with Barrington and his team, it would seem the biggest struggle they are currently having is trying to identify the “big idea” for Centre City that will take it to the next level by 2035.
The area currently lacks that “must see, must do” attraction, architecture or activity that great city centres have.
Think of Times Square, Central Park or the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Millennium Park in Chicago, St. Catherine’s Street in Montreal — or Eaton Centre, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
A big idea for our Centre City has eluded Calgary for many years and it is a role that cannot be filled by just another big office tower, hotel, condo or shopping complex.
Could it be the revitalization of East Village, or the transformation of Stampede Park into a year-round entertainment district?
Barrington is only three months into his position, but I am confident he is the kind of big thinker who might just be able to bring the private and public sectors together to create something special for our Centre City that will shout: “This is Calgary!”
If you have any ideas, e-mail them to me and I will pass them on.
Centre City lacks an iconic area like that of Times Square in New York.