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Why City Planning? Building Great Communities for Everyone





Planning, building and implementing great communities for everyone.

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Why City Planning?

Planning, building and implementing great communities for everyone.


Getting ahead of the change

Change is inevitable for all cities including Calgary. City governments plan for change by working to adapt to growing populations, changes in the economy, outlining aims for a sustainable future, and creating great communities for everyone.

Calgary is expected to grow by another 1.3 million people over the next 30 - 60 years. These are some big numbers and as a city we need to figure out how to guide that growth to ensure we create a compact and sustainable city where all communities remain vibrant and continue to thrive. Supporting growth in existing and new communities will be important to achieving these outcomes.

As Calgary grows, we want to build our city in a way that is mindful of the future, promotes sustainable ways of living, encourages a variety of housing choices, is respectful of community character, and balances the interests of neighbourhoods with the interests of Calgary as a whole.

Planning for community evolution

The City of Calgary uses city planning to create plans to guide growth and redevelopment. Thoughtful planning aims to create more choice in communities through various types of housing, places to shop, ways for people to get around and options for businesses wishing to locate in a community.

City planning helps to plan for the needs of the citizens today and into the future by accommodating appropriate expansion of infrastructure so that water, roads, parks and everything else citizens need are built or maintained in the right places and in a timely way.

These plans are created together by City planners, citizens, landowners, developers and City Council to create a vision for communities and to help guide growth and development before the change comes too fast. We want to be ahead of the change and not catching up after it happens.

These plans provide City planners, citizens, landowners, developers and City Council with a common vision for how growth and development should happen and to help guide new development as it is considered.


Great Communities for Everyone

The City of Calgary is tackling planning in a different way – by creating a new approach to the way we achieve Great Communities for Everyone.

We are creating a new set of tools for a different kind of conversation. We are changing how we think about planning by creating a people-focused approach to enable quality communities. We are focusing, less on what buildings need to go where, and more on how people experience their communities and live their lives everyday, what they value and need in their communities, and how to achieve these outcomes while their communities evolve and grow over time.


Since the Municipal Development Plan and Land Use Bylaw were approved, we have heard five themes through many engagement opportunities that support Great Communities for Everyone. The five themes are:

  • Are we achieving our outcomes?
  • Minor changes aren't resulting in real change.
  • Do we have the right tools for implementation?
  • There is a disconnect between policy and regulation.
  • We need to focus on what citizens value.

As communities evolve, we need to build things to support the new people that will make the choice to live in these communities. There needs to be new or expanded roads and pathways, public transit, water treatment, fire stations, parks, libraries and recreation centres. To build these we need to create an investment program that will support the cost of building or enhancing these things. A comprehensive city-wide growth strategy helps create that program by recommending public investment that can leverage private investment to help build and sustain communities.

To start shifting the way we all think about planning we need to simplify our approach to plans and policies. The City of Calgary has hundreds of community plans and policies that outline the vision for growth and development. Having that many plans can create confusion for citizens, make things more complicated for landowners and developers, and may limit the way we address the needs of individual communities.

The City will be simplifying and consolidating the policies, plans and guidelines for growth and redevelopment to make the process simpler and easier for people to follow while still creating capacity for unique neighbourhood needs.

What we are doing

You have probably heard about some of the work we are doing, but it can be confusing to know how it all fits together to link The City’s vision with changes and actions on the ground.

Municipal Development Plan

What is the Municipal Development Plan?
Approved in 2009, the Municipal Development Plan is our vision for how Calgary grows and develops over the next 30 to 60 years.

Why do we have a Municipal Development Plan?
It is a requirement of the Municipal Government Act that municipalities have an approved Municipal Development Plan to provide a vision land use, future growth patterns and the provision of infrastructure, facilities and services.

How does the Municipal Development Plan work?
The Plan aims to build a city where Calgarians can live, work and recreate in numerous unique communities. It works together with the Calgary Transportation Plan​ to provide multiple transportation options so all Calgarians – whether traveling on foot, bike, transit or car – are able to travel safely and conveniently.

Where does the Municipal Development Plan identify areas for growth and change?
The Plan provides broad geographic areas, called “typologies”, and related policy to provide guidance to planning and development processes, and where growth and change may occur.

More on the Municipal Development Plan and Next 20.

Guidebook for Great Communities

What is the Guidebook for Great Communities?
A document that guides 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. 

More on the Guidebook for Great Communities​.

Renewed Land Use Bylaw

What is the renewed Land Use Bylaw?
At the beginning of 2019, Council reiterated the importance of initiatives that support the move to a planning system that is more outcome-oriented and in which there is clear line-of-sight between the City’s vision, the community plans and the Land Use Bylaw. They proposed that priority should be placed on initiatives that support the renewal of the Land Use Bylaw. Instead of minor, incremental amendments, changes to the Land Use Bylaw should be undertaken with a view towards achieving comprehensive change and overall improved outcomes for great communities. Comprehensive change is also required to properly implement the policy direction provided in the Guidebooks and multi-community plans.

Why do we need to renew the Land Use Bylaw?
Our policy initiatives must be prioritized to deliver on the One Calgary service proposal. Closely integrating the bylaw into development of the desired outcomes ensures that the regulations which are implemented in the bylaw are best suited to deliver the desired outcomes. By reviewing the land use bylaw hand-in-hand with other initiatives, we will be ble to identify where bylaw rules are not aligned or may even be impeding desired outcomes.

How will we renew the Land Use Bylaw?
The renewal of the Land Use Bylaw (Bylaw) will be done over time, aligning new districts with the urban form categories of the Guidebook for Great Communities. The districts will be implemented through new local area plans created for multi-communities. Since the goal is to have districts that are future oriented and centred on a person’s experience, allowing a community to evolve in a strategic way that is aligned with a local area plan, existing districts will not be transitioned to the new districts until a local area plan for a community is complete. The new districts will only be put onthe ground after a local area plan is completed, where all stakeholders have discussed the future evolution of their community and understand the desired outcomes and path forward in their community. This will ensure transparent expectations and a unied understanding of the evolution of a community. These districts will be added to the existing Bylaw as a new volume (or Part), and areas without a new local area plan will continue to use the current districts to grow and evolve​.

More on the Renewed Land Use Bylaw.

City Wide Growth Strategies

What are the City Wide Growth Strategies?
The city wide growth strategy consists of three components, the Established Areas Growth and Change Strategy, Industrial Growth Strategy, and New Community Growth Strategy.

Why do we have a City Wide Growth Strategy?
The city wide growth strategy supports the vision of the Municipal Development Plan and Calgary Transportation Plan by providing a clear process to determine when and where the city should grow, allowing greater certainty for private investment decisions.

How does the City Wide Growth Strategy support the Municipal Development Plan?
This city wide growth strategy focuses on how to enable growth and development and retain investment and jobs in Calgary, while achieving the policy objectives in the Municipal Development Plan/Calgary Transportation Plan and maintaining a balanced market.

Where does the City Wide Growth Strategy apply?
The city wide growth strategy focuses on how to enable growth in all parts of Calgary.

More on City-Wide Growth Strategies​.

Coming Soon

  • Financial Tools
  • Transit Oriented Development Strategy