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Guidebook for Great Communities

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Guidebook for Great Communities

​Communities are never static, they are constantly evolving and growing​. As communities grow, change, and adapt over time, the choices and opportunities for its existing and new residents should increase. Increasing choice allows residents to age in their community and families to thrive; choice allows people to try different food and shops that suit their individual style and tastes; choice allows people of various abilities, ages, and skills to play, relax and recover in a way that meets their needs. Communities benefit and become more vibrant and resilient by offering choice.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Proposed ​Guidebook for Great Communities​​

What is the Guidebook for Great Communities?
The Guidebook is a document that directs how Calgary will evolve and change to achieve great communities for everyone.

Why the Guidebook for Great Communities?
Cities constantly evolve and change. The Guidebook is a tool to help guide this change and evolution in Calgary by establishing clear guidance and a common understanding of how development will contribute to a great community.

How does the Guidebook for Great Communities work?
The Guidebook helps to advance a people-centred approach to community evolution by focusing on where life and activity occurs and planning development to support it. The Guidebook provides an urban form classification system to be applied through the local area planning process and policies to direct planning applications.

Where does the Guidebook for Great Communities apply?
The entire Guidebook applies to areas that have local area plans completed using the Guidebook. Chapter 3 (Building Great Communities for Everyone) applies to the built-out areas of Calgary outside of the Centre City, with or without a local area plan developed using the Guidebook

The planning policies in the Guidebook are based on a set of principles and goals that are central to creating and maintaining great communities for everyone. Achieving these community goals should make life better for everyone as they go about their daily journeys.

There is a need for the existing Developed Areas Guidebook to remain in effect for previously approved local area plans that already make reference to it. The new Guidebook will be adopted by a stand-alone bylaw, separate from the Municipal Development Plan, under powers of the new City Charter that allows for the creation of a new type of statutory document. This will allow the existing Developed Areas Guidebook to remain untouched within the Municipal Development Plan, as it is today, to be the guiding document to a number of recently approved areas.

Principles for Great Communities

  • Opportunity and Choice
    Everyone has access to places to shop, learn, work, eat and play, and there are diverse housing and mobility options for many different people and household types.
  • ​Health and Wellness
    Everyone has access to care, recreational opportunities and healthy food, and there are options to incorporate activity into how you get around.
  • ​Social Interaction
    There are a variety of places to gather, celebrate and interact with all kinds of people.
  • ​The Natural Environment
    Natural areas are protected, restored and valued, and are accessible to everyone.
  • Economic Vitality
    Everyone has access to diverse employment options and an environment conducive to starting, operating and sustaining a business.
  • Identity and Place
    Well-designed neighbourhoods create a sense of place that fosters identity and creates pride in the community.

Planning, building and sustaining great communities begins with a conversation about the needs and wants of current and future residents, businesses and visitors to a community. What makes the community great for everyone? What is missing that would make it better, safer, more accessible and enjoyable. What kinds of choices are people offered by a community for housing, education, recreation, retail, restaurants, services and more? What are the most valued amenities in the community including public art, heritage resources, parks, and vistas? How does a community meet the principles and goals for great communities? What opportunities and challenges do you recognize?


Goals for Great Communities

  • Promote varied, inclusive and equitable housing options.
  • Provide opportunities to access goods, services and amenities close by.
  • Offer opportunities to gather and participate in civic, arts, cultural and entertainment activities, in both public and private spaces.
  • Provide varied and inclusive spaces and facilities for recreation, play, and outdoor activities close by.
  • Ensure spaces are designed for everyone, foster a sense of place and are connected together—however a person moves.
  • Ensure natural areas, biodiversity and ecological functions are protected, restored, created and enjoyed.
  • Enable and support prosperity through diverse economic opportunities at a variety of scales.
  • Support the use of existing streets, services and buildings to reduce the need for new infrastructure.

Current work

The Guidebook for Great Communities addresses feedback that we have received from communities, stakeholders, industry, Council, and staff over the last 4+ years. The Guidebook is part of a new approach to guiding local area planning by establishing a new planning framework common to all built-out areas in Calgary to help guide the evolution of communities and get to the outcome of Great Communities for Everyone.

The Guidebook provides a people-focused approach for community evolution through an Urban Form Classification System which sets up for a different conversation about how people experience their community and the built form around them in their everyday lives. It is less about a building itself, and more about how people relate to that building and the surrounding public realm. The System provides the structure for conversations about community evolution through the local area planning process, and common policies help to guide and inform decisions around future development in Calgary’s established neighbourhoods.

Administration has been engaging with communities and stakeholders on various planning matters, including the Guidebook, over the last few years. Collaboration and feedback from all engagements has and continues to inform the work being done on the Guidebook. The Guidebook team is collaborating with a number of on-going projects that are all working towards building Great Communities for Everyone. Some of these projects include:

2019 Timeline

  • August 30 – For information public post of:
    • Proposed Guidebook for Great Communities (for best results, view in two page layout)
    • New Land Use Bylaw Framework and Outline for New Districts
  • October 2 - Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development. The reports to PUD included recommendations to approve the following:
    • Guidebook for Great Communities
    • New Land Use Bylaw Framework and Outline for New Districts
    • Proceed with phase one of the new Land Use Bylaw Framework​, the creation of a new Limited scale Neighbourhood Housing district and develop implementation options.
    • The report was postponed based on the following that was Moved by Councillor Sutherland
    • That with respect to Reports PUD2019-1015 and PUD2019-1200, the following be approved:
      That the Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development:

      1. Postpone the Great Communities for Everyone report PUD2019-1015 (Guidebook) and the Implementing Great Communities for Everyone report PUD2019-1200  back to Administration to:
        • Direct Administration to create a panel comprised of up to 6 stakeholder representatives who collaborated on the Guidebook and its considerations for implementation; and
        • Return to the 2019 November 06 SPC on Planning & Urban Development committee meeting.
      2. Request a discussion between the above noted panel and Committee members at the 2019 November 06 SPC on Planning & Urban Development committee meeting, in an effort to:
        • Confirm expectations of Guidebook,
        • Discuss any outstanding areas of disagreement in the Guidebook, and
        • Propose possible testing methods of the Guidebook's practices and policies, including but not limited to leveraging the North Hill Communities Local Growth Planning pilot project to evaluate practicality of the Guidebook to meet the goal of evolving communities in a manner that responds to the needs of current and future residents.


  • November 6 - Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development.
    • Postponed from October 2.  Recommendations from those reports will be put forward for approval.
    • A panel discussion will occur as per the approved recommendations from October 2.
  • December 16 - Public Hearing of Council. The report to Council will include recommendations from Planning and Urban Development on November 6 noted above.



Since the approval of the original Developed Areas Guidebook in 2017, Administration has been actively engaging with communities and stakeholders to use the Guidebook through local area planning processes and applications. This, together with feedback from planning engagements across many projects over the past few years (including over 75 different events) has given staff a lot of great information that is being used to inform the next generation of the Guidebook – Great Communities for Everyone.

Current Engagement (Winter/Spring 2019)


Robyn Jamieson, Senior Planner
Planning & Development


For media inquiries, please call 403-828-2954.​​

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