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Catalyzing Calgary’s Downtown West

November 06, 2023

Downtowns, as engines for their cities, require urgent action. What can communities learn from Calgary’s approach to revitalization?

By David Dixon, Nancy MacDonald, and Marcus Paterson

Calgary has long experienced economic shifts typical of an energy economy. Now those shifts, paired with the impacts of COVID, provide an opportunity to reimagine how Calgary’s downtown can support economic recovery and growth. To address this, The City asked, “how can investment in Calgary’s Downtown West catalyze change, foster a stronger sense of community, and contribute to the overall success of Downtown, all of Calgary, and the region?”

The charette: fostering a sense of community

In October 2022, our team participated in a three-day charette to reimagine Calgary’s Downtown West. We joined the Calgary Downtown Association and the Center for Civilization at the University of Calgary School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape to explore priorities for further investment in the community. Industry experts, community leaders, officials, and diverse advocates participated in lively conversations, and presented their best ideas. The resulting conversations outlined scenarios on how to move beyond ideation by focusing on implementation and priority investment opportunities.

The report: Catalyzing Calgary’s Downtown West

Our team created a report that summarizes the outputs of the event, reviews existing plans and policies, and shares insights into the Downtown West neighborhood. The report is underpinned by a scorecard evaluation of potential projects leading to a phased implementation approach. To help guide The City, the scorecard consolidates previously identified projects with ideas generated during the charrette. It then analyzes each project independently for alignment with existing City goals to determine how effectively it could enhance the Downtown West community. 

A phased approach for prioritizing investment

The recommended project list is divided into three phases of work: 

  1. Major projects that require significant capital investment from The City
  2. Smaller quick wins
  3. Other complementary projects that can be deployed concurrently or in advance of major projects 

The goal of utilizing this approach is to prioritize investment in Downtown West, foster an immediate sense of community and investment, and signal there’s an opportunity to private sector developers. The recommended projects serve to catalyze re-engagement around Downtown West and move forward with specific actions as part of The City's Greater Downtown Plan.

Over a 3-day charrette, public, private, industry, and community members came together to explore, validate, and refine priorities for future investment in Downtown Calgary.

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