Morrison shuddered to think what Calgary would look like without visionaries like Councilor Druh Farrell (Peace Bridge, Memorial Drive, East Village and new Library), Andrew Mosker (National Music Centre) and the people at Canada Municipal Land Corporation (East Village, St. Patrick’s Island and Riverwalk).
He laments that too many people are standing in the way of these visionaries and questions all of the petty squabbling about bike lanes, transit and disabled schools. I choose to focus on what we have accomplished to attract what he calls “new blood.”
For example, Myrna Dube, Calgary Parks Foundation’s President & CEO, was visionary for the new Rotary/Mattamy Greenway, a 138 km pathway that will circle the city connecting over 100 suburban communities (over 300,000 people, 25% of the city’s population). It is easily the equivalent of NYC’s High Line, just more suburban in nature.
What about the visionaries for Stephen Avenue walk or Calgary's amazing parks and city-wide pathway system (now the largest in the world).
Or perhaps the visionaries at Brookfield Residential who are creating a new urban village that will be very attractive to the "young blood" working the medical field at SETON.
Attracting new blood
This leads to Morrison’s question, “Has anyone moved here because of it is super car-friendly or because of its endless suburbs?” and his opinion is “probably not.” In fact, one of Calgary advantages over Vancouver and Toronto (there are many) is that newcomers can buy a large family house for hundreds of thousands of dollars less and be just 30-minute car commute from work. Remember - not everyone can - or wants to - walk, cycle or take transit to work.
And, though it might be a tough pill to swallow for urban missionaries not everyone wants to live in dense high-rise communities like Manhattan. People are surprised when I tell them that on a per capita basis, Calgary has as many people living within 4 km of its downtown - 7% of the metro population.
But not to worry urban evangelists, Calgary has one of the most aggressive urbanization programs of any city in the world with a population under two million - Bridges, Currie Barracks, East Village, Greenwich, Inglewood Brewery, Quarry Park, SETON, Westbrook Station, West Campus and West District. Collectively, they will provide urban homes for approximately 100,000 people and work places for 60,000+ in diverse, dense, vibrant urban neighbourhoods.
All of this is in addition to Calgary’s existing urban districts – Beltline, Eau Claire, Downtown West, Mission, Kensington and Inglewood, the latter of which was named Canada’s greatest neighbourhood by the Canadian Institute of Planners in 2014 (with Kensington being a finalist).
Great cities provide a diversity of communities for people to choose from.
I would argue the Calgary region has a nice mix of urban, established, master planned suburban communities, acreages and small towns for a city its size.
We must be doing something right as Calgary is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 livable cities in the world - NYC is not in the top 10. In 2014, the Economist had Calgary tied for 5th only 1 point out of first place as of the world’s “most livable” cities.