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Ward 7 News: Blog - Calgary Chinatown Development Update

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Chinese Cultural Centre

As I wrote to you in November, I care deeply about Calgary’s Chinatown. Now that the Planning Chinatown process has concluded, I want to thank all those who came to speak to Council in early December, as well as those who participated throughout the process. Chinatown stakeholders’ passionate support for a stronger and more vibrant Chinatown was crucial. Their efforts helped push Council to recognize the value of Chinatown. Council heard that Chinatown is unique, with a rich cultural history that needs to be preserved and enhanced. They heard that Chinatown matters.

I see that Chinatown faces two major challenges, and heard the same concerns from many Chinatown stakeholders. 1) That no development happens in Chinatown and the community suffers from stagnation/deterioration, and 2) That Chinatown sees inappropriate development that does not respect the community’s physical and cultural values.

It was an honour to stand up for Chinatown and push Council to support amendments to the original land-use proposal, in addition to supporting a new Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP). Early on at the Council meeting, it looked like Council might support the original application and not support an ARP review. This would have been the worst case scenario, so I was glad to see presentations from community members help to change their minds. Fortunately, Council did not support the original application and they did support reviewing the ARP.

Concerned that Council might support the original application, I put forward Administration’s recommended amendments. The following passed:

• Mandatory minimum of 60% residential uses – the current ARP allows for 100% commercial/office development
• Reduction in height on 2 Av to 46 metres – the current height allowed in the ARP
• A four storey podium on 2 Av and a six storey podium on 3 Av – the current ARP does not require podiums and allows 15 storeys straight up
• Retail bay size restrictions of 465 metres squared – the current ARP does not have retail bay size restrictions that promote mom-and-pop shops
• Increased building articulation, improved pedestrian connectivity/space, and a stronger commitment to Chinese or Asian motifs – the current ARP does not ensure these features

Based on the community’s recommendations at the public hearing, I also put forward further amendments to make the application fit better into Chinatown:

• Reduction in height on 3 Av to 71 metres – disappointingly, other members of Council did not support this amendment
• Increase the stepback from podiums to towers to 6 metres – other members of Council did not support this amendment, though 3 metre minimum stepbacks were approved – the current ARP does not have clear stepback requirements
• Maximum retail bay widths to better ensure the mom-and-pop feel of Chinatown – Council supported this amendment
• No more renewals of surface parking lot uses past 2027, to encourage residential development on the site – Council supported this amendment

I did not support a hotel as an allowed use on the site, but the majority on Council supported a hotel. Any hotel space will have to come from the 40% commercial space and there can be no loss of the 60% residential.

In terms of a concurrent Development Permit (DP), Council supported this requirement. The applicant must return with a conditionally approved DP prior to the final vote on the land-use. If the DP is not conditionally approved within two years, the land-use application fails and the 1984 land-use remains in place. This accomplishes two benefits – it provides certainty for the community and ensures that the applicant works with stakeholders on the actual building design. 

The Council meeting and final amendments were complex, so if you have any questions on what was or was not approved, please connect with Dale Calkins in my office:

Thank you again for your involvement on this application. We did not secure everything that we wanted, but I was proud to support the community in pushing for the best development in Chinatown.

As we heard through the Planning Chinatown process, Chinatown is not just a place, it is a feeling. I will continue to push for preserving and enhancing Chinatown.

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This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.

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