Revitalization

Calgary on the March

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 15, 2005

Today's Globe and Mail ran a good article on municipalities converting decomissioned military bases into mixed-use redevelopments.

In one example:

Calgary's council is getting close to signing off on zoning issues, based on a master plan for CFB Calgary it approved five years ago.

The plan allows for one of the largest mixed-use "new urbanist" developments in Canada, which are pedestrian friendly, where houses have front porches and rear garages, the streets are narrow and winding and there is neighbourhood retail. It calls for 3,000 housing units, 300,000 square feet of office space and 220,000 square feet of shops and services with apartments overhead, with 22 acres set aside for parkland.

Not surprisingly, these plans are running into obstacles as city councils grapple with legacy regulations and recalcitrant city departments.

"Our project is not a typical suburban development," says Mark McCullough, [general manager of real estate for Alberta at Canada Lands Co., an arm's-length Crown corporation that disposes of surplus federal properties]. "City council has been very supportive, but at times it's hard to translate policy into implementation because of opposition from some city departments." ...

Engineers, for example, are exasperated by narrow streets and rear lanes for garages, because fire trucks and other emergency vehicles might find access difficult and because it doesn't follow the city's infrastructure rules.

City council, the public, and even the local media are excited about the plan, which takes an ambitious plunge into the philosophy of design that 'new urbanists' have been advocating for well over a decade.

This may serve as a test case for municipalities across the country. If, as new urbanists predict, it remains popular among residents and businesses and property values reflect that popularity, then other municipalities may be prepared to take their own leaps of faith.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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