StarMetro Calgary - - SPECIAL FEATURE: NEW HOMES - Mario Toneguzzi

An al­liance of var­i­ous groups and or­ga­ni­za­tions has been formed in Cal­gary to fight against the threat of any fi­nan­cial cuts to the city’s Main Streets ini­tia­tive, which aims at up­grad­ing and im­prov­ing key road­ways in many es­tab­lished neigh­bour­hoods.

Ad­vo­cates into Main Streets (AIMS) in­cludes com­mu­nity as­so­ci­a­tions, busi­ness im­prove­ment ar­eas, ac­tive es­tab­lished area de­vel­op­ers, and plan­ning and design pro­fes­sion­als.

In a let­ter in early Novem­ber to Cal­gary’s city coun­cil, AIMS wrote that the group shares “a uni­fied voice with the ex­pressed pri­or­ity of ad­vo­cat­ing for Main Streets fund­ing and sup­port.”

Ali McMil­lan, plan­ning di­rec­tor for the Bridge­landRiver­side Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion, says the Main Streets ini­tia­tive is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal for com­mu­ni­ties.

“Es­tab­lished com­mu­ni­ties are chang­ing and we’re ask­ing res­i­dents to change in terms of adding den­sity to their com­mu­nity and we re­ally need to show the ben­e­fits. Den­sity with­out ameni­ties is a to­tally dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tion. A bunch of us in es­tab­lished com­mu­ni­ties have wooden power poles on our main streets or gravel al­ley­ways. Th­ese are older com­mu­ni­ties . . . and if we’re not go­ing to see some in­vest­ment to im­prove the place where the neigh­bour­hood lives and breathes on our main streets it’s kind of hard to ask peo­ple for this kind of change,” she says.

“We re­ally see the op­por­tu­nity where we can have that con­ver­sa­tion about how it makes so much sense to add den­sity where there al­ready is peo­ple and things go­ing on and th­ese main streets. But we need to show peo­ple there’s a big up­side to this.”

Bob van We­gen, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Marda Loop Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Area, calls the al­liance a grass­roots col­lec­tion of stake­hold­ers.

“Up in our area just for an ex­am­ple we’ve had huge de­vel­op­ment and change in Marda Loop. Just in the last three years we’ve had seven large multi-storey res­i­den­tial, com­mer­cial, mixed-use build­ings either com­pleted or un­der con­struc­tion and we’ve had vir­tu­ally no in­vest­ment in the pub­lic realm in our area and no plan in the pub­lic realm,” says van We­gen.

“Our pub­lic realm is in­cred­i­bly beat up. In some places it’s even un­safe for like pedes­trian cross­ings.”

He says many com­mu­ni­ties, like Marda Loop, have gone through ex­ten­sive plan­ning to deal with fu­ture im­prove­ments with the ex­pec­ta­tion that there would be in­vest­ment and some im­ple­men­ta­tion com­ing.

Alka­rim De­vani, pres­i­dent and co-founder of RNDSQR, a Cal­gary de­vel­oper and home­builder, says from a com­mu­nity build­ing stand­point it’s ex­cit­ing to be on the same side as com­mu­nity as­so­ci­a­tions, busi­ness im­prove­ment ar­eas and other stake­hold­ers.

“We all re­al­ize how crit­i­cal and im­por­tant this fund­ing is to th­ese main streets. We’ve iden­ti­fied them as re­ally parts and al­most like the hearts of many of th­ese com­mu­ni­ties,” says De­vani.

David White, co-owner and prin­ci­ple of CivicWorks, a con­sult­ing firm that of­fers plan­ning and design sup­port to de­vel­op­ers and builders, says the ap­proach of the al­liance is to put pres­sure on city coun­cil to in­di­cate that this is a pri­or­ity for many Cal­gar­i­ans.

Den­sity with­out ameni­ties is a to­tally dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tion



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