City di­vides as pop­u­la­tion mul­ti­plies

Cal­gary evolv­ing into five cities

Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos - RICHARD WHITE

One of Cal­gary’s ad­van­tages dur­ing the past 50 years has been its abil­ity to an­nex land and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties as it grows.

Ex­am­ples in­clude For­est Lawn and Mid­na­pore in 1961, or Bow­ness in 1963.

As a re­sult, Cal­gary has been able to evolve as a sin­gle city with a healthy in­ner city and sub­ur­ban neigh­bour­hoods, rather than a frag­mented ur­ban re­gion such as Ed­mon­ton with large, sub­ur­ban edge cities (OK, Cal­gary may not be per­fect, but it’s bet­ter than most.)

This is not the case for most North Amer­i­can cities.

In most cases, the orig­i­nal city was sur­rounded by smaller towns with their own town coun­cil, as well as fire, wa­ter, safety and school sys­tems.

Dur­ing the past 50 years, these small “edge towns” have mostly be­come large, in­de­pen­dent cities able to of­fer lower taxes and hous­ing be­cause they didn’t have transit sys­tems, so­cial pro­grams or an aging in­fra­struc­ture.

This re­sulted in more and more res­i­dents and busi­nesses choos­ing to lo­cate to such places.

For ex­am­ple, in 1961, the City of Van­cou­ver’s pop­u­la­tion was 384,522, with a re­gional pop­u­la­tion of 827,000.

To­day, the lower main­land of B.C. has a pop­u­la­tion of 2.5 mil­lion di­vided into 21 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, with Van­cou­ver rep­re­sent­ing only 23 per cent of the metro pop­u­la­tion — down from 46 per cent in 1961.

On the other hand, Cal­gary’s pop­u­la­tion in 1961 was 249,641, or 89 per cent of the re­gional pop­u­la­tion of 279,000.

To­day, the City of Cal­gary’s pop­u­la­tion is 1,071,515, or 81 per cent of the re­gional pop­u­la­tion.

Dur­ing the past 50 years, Air­drie has grown to a city of 39,822, Oko­toks to 23,201, Cochrane to 15,424 and Strath­more to 12,139 — but they are still, for the most part, bed­room com­mu­ni­ties of Cal­gary.

In the past, this growth has been mostly res­i­den­tial.

How­ever, more and more these edge cities are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing re­tail and in­dus­trial growth as a re­sult of no busi­ness taxes

C MFor other Richard White col­umns, visit our web­site un­der the head­ing: ‘More News and Views.’ and lower land costs.

Cal­gary will not be able to an­nex these cities as they did in the past, which could lead to frag­mented de­vel­op­ment in the fu­ture.

As Cal­gary has grown, even in­ter­nally, its res­i­dents have be­gun to think less and less like those of a uni­fied city and more and more like a frag­mented one.

One of the unique fea­tures of Cal­gary is that de­spite liv­ing in a city of more than a mil­lion, for the most part peo­ple live in one of four quad­rants.

If you di­vide them into 250,000 peo­ple apiece, that’s roughly a city the size of Saska­toon or Vic­to­ria for each quad­rant.

Many Calgarians liv­ing in the north­west never cross the Bow River ex­cept to go down­town to work.

Sim­i­larly, those who live in the south­west also never cross the Bow River ex­cept to get to the air­port.

More and more Calgarians are iden­ti­fy­ing with the quad­rant they live in.

When it comes to new in­fra­struc­ture, the city is cur­rently very di­vided.

The air­port tun­nel, though an is­sue for busi­nesses and res­i­dents in the north­east, is a non­is­sue for the rest of the city.

The south­east LRT ex­ten­sion, though a key is­sue for south­east down­town com­muters, isn’t an is­sue for south­east­ern­ers who don’t work down­town — nor for those who live in the city’s other three quad­rants.

The ring road con­nec­tion is a key is­sue for those in the south­west now that they have their LRT con­nec­tion to down­town, but less so for oth­ers.

More and more, Cal­gary is a city di­vided. We are now liv­ing in a “what about me” (WAM) so­ci­ety.

Most 20th cen­tury cities — in­clud­ing Cal­gary — are now deal­ing with prob­lems based on that cen­tury’s down­town­cen­tric model of plan­ning cities.

In other words, down­town was made the fo­cal point for all com­mer­cial, cul­tural and civic ac­tiv­i­ties, as well as roads and transit.

While there are few cities in the world as down­town- cen­tric as Cal­gary, our down­town strug­gles to thrive in the evenings and week­ends when com­muters are back home in the sub­urbs.

And while down­town is still Cal­gary’s eco­nomic en­gine, other parts of the city are de­vel­op­ing their own char­ac­ter, charm and cul­ture.

An­other prob­lem is that while down­town re­mains im­por­tant to the ev­ery­day lives of 20 per cent of Calgarians, for the other 80 per cent, it is not part of their ur­ban ex­pe­ri­ence on a monthly, quar­terly, or for some even an an­nual ba­sis.

I see Cal­gary quickly evolv­ing into five dis­tinct “cities,” each with their own eco­nomic base, ameni­ties and cul­ture: the Learn­ing City, the Air­port City, the Play­ground City, the Cor­po­rate City and the Health care City.

I thought it might be in­ter­est­ing to look at how Cal­gary might evolve over the next 50 years:

The Learn­ing City — This is pri­mar­ily the north­west quad­rant of the city run­ning from the Bow River to the city’s north­ern lim­its, and from Deer­foot Trail to the city’s west­ern lim­its.

Its em­ploy­ment cen­tres are the Univer­sity of Cal­gary, Foothills Med­i­cal Cen­tre (teach­ing hos­pi­tal), SAIT Polytech­nic and Al­berta Col­lege of Art and De­sign (ACAD).

This is where the ma­jor­ity of pro­fes­sors, in­struc­tors, doc­tors, nurses and other staff live, work and play.

It has two ma­jor parks: Nose Hill and Bow­ness Park. Recre­ation­ally, it has Canada Olympic Park and Shouldice Ath­letic Park, as well as sev­eral ma­jor re­cre­ation cen­tres

It has more than five mil­lion square feet of re­tail, in­clud­ing Mar­ket Mall, North­land Vil­lage mall, North Hill Mall, Brent­wood Mall and Crow­foot Power Cen­tre.

It is also home to Cal­gary’s first ur­ban vil­lage — Kens­ing­ton, with its cafe cul­ture and Plaza Theatre. About 325,000 peo­ple live in the Learn­ing City.

The Air­port City — This is ba­si­cally the north­east quad­rant of the city, an area from east of Deer­foot Trail and north of 17th Av­enue S.E.

The air­port is the key dif­fer­en­tia­tor for this “city.” and the driver for its econ­omy is the al­most 40-mil­lion square feet of in­dus­trial space and six-mil­lion square feet of sub­ur­ban of­fice space sur­round­ing the air­port.

It is home to about 230,000 Calgarians, who not only work there but shop (In­ter­na­tional Av­enue, Mar­bor­ough Mall, Sun­ridge Mall and CrossIron Mills could be in­cluded as part of the Air­port City) and play (Ro­tary Park and El­lis­ton Park) there.

The Air­port City could also be called our mul­ti­cul­tural city.

The Play­ground City — This is all com­mu­ni­ties east of the Bow River and north of 25th Av­enue S.W. It is where the ma­jor­ity of cor­po­rate Cal­gary lives and plays.

It is home to Chi­nook Cen­tre, Cal­gary’s largest shop­ping cen­tre, as well as IKEA, South­cen­tre, WestHills and Shaw­nessy Power Cen­tres — al­most 10 mil­lion square feet of re­tail space.

It is also home to ameni­ties such as the West­side, South­land and Trico re­cre­ation cen­tres, as well as Glen­more Reser­voir, Weasel­head, Fish Creek and Her­itage Parks, along with Spruce Mead­ows.

It is served by two legs of the LRT.

Sur­rounded by golf cour­ses at its edges, it also has three pri­vate clubs — Cal­gary Golf and Coun­try Club, Earl Grey, and Canyon Mead­ows — within its bound­aries.

It has two non-re­tail em­ploy­ment cen­ters — Mount Royal Univer­sity/West­mount Of­fice Park and Manch­ester in­dus­trial area.

About 400,000 peo­ple live in our Play­ground City.

The Cor­po­rate (Cen­tre) City — This is the area from In­gle­wood to Sunalta, from Cres­cent Heights to Roxboro (in other words, the Bow/El­bow River Val­ley.)

It over­laps with the Learn­ing City on the north side of the river. It is the heart, soul and face of Cal­gary.

It is the only ur­ban area in the city home to Kens­ing­ton Vil­lage, Up­town 17th, Stephen Av­enue Walk, De­sign District, 4th Street and In­gle­wood Vil­lage.

It is also home to more than 60 mil­lion square feet of of­fices, ho­tels, re­tail, restau­rants, at­trac­tions and con­dos.

It is one of the most densely de­vel­oped ar­eas in North Amer­ica.

It is Cal­gary’s cor­po­rate, cul­tural and civic head­quar­ters — home to most of our cul­tural, fes­ti­val and sport­ing events.

Not only is it the eco­nomic en­gine for Cal­gary and one of the top five eco­nomic en­gines for Canada, it is home to Stam­pede Park, Shaw Millennium Park and Prince’s Is­land Park, as well as sig­na­ture re­cre­ation fa­cil­i­ties such as Tal­is­man Cen­tre, Bankers Hall Club and Eau Claire Y.

More than 150,000 Calgarians come to work here each work­day, with about 50,000 call­ing it home.

The Health care City — This is Cal­gary’s new­est city. Lo­cated in the far south­east, it will soon be dom­i­nated by the new mega-South Health Cam­pus in Se­ton.

It is also Cal­gary’s largest in­dus­trial area, with more than 45.9 mil­lion square feet of in­dus­trial space and more than three mil­lion square feet of sub­ur­ban of­fice space, in­clud­ing the new Quarry Park de­vel­op­ment.

Ex­ist­ing recre­ational and park ameni­ties in­clude Cal­gary Soc­cer Cen­tre, Fish Creek Park and Car­burn Park. It is cur­rently home to about 75,000 peo­ple but it is ex­pected to grow to more than 120,000 by 2020.

Con­clu­sion

Cities are a hu­man cre­ation. They are part of the on­go­ing hu­man ad­ven­ture.

They are a work in progress. We are still ex­per­i­ment­ing.

Cal­gary needs to re­think the North Amer­i­can city of the 21st cen­tury.

We need to stop try­ing to Euro­peanize our city and de­velop a win­ter/prairie ur­ban model that em­braces the car, transit, pedes­tri­ans and bikes.

Cal­gary could be a leader in the de­vel­op­ment of new ur­ban mod­els, rather than im­i­tat­ing what cities did 100 years ago.

We need to look in­ward, not out­ward, and start think­ing and plan­ning in terms of how can we fos­ter the de­vel­op­ment of five (or maybe more) dis­tinct sus­tain­able Cal­gary cities — each with their own qual­ity of life, their own sense of place, and their own mix of em­ploy­ment, res­i­den­tial, re­tail/restau­rant, parks, re­cre­ation and cul­tural cen­tres.

Cal­gary Her­ald Archive

Glen­more Reser­voir is seen as be­ing part of the emerg­ing ‘Play­ground City’ within Cal­gary.

The South Health Cam­pus, un­der con­struc­tion in Se­ton in the south­east, is seen as part of the emerg­ing ‘health care city.’

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