We’re facing a long road to recovery, but there is no looking back. We must focus on the future. Calgary’s downtown will not go back to the way it was before the pandemic, let alone five to ten years ago because of changes to our energy industry and how and where people work. We must take bold steps now, implement necessary changes and make decisive moves quickly in order to transform and reinvent downtown for decades to come.
The Downtown Strategy team is leveraging the collective efforts of The City and its public and private sector partners to respond to prolonged economic challenges, and capitalize on opportunities that will create jobs, drive economic recovery, and revitalize and transform the downtown. We are working to address the challenges downtown is facing and set the downtown up for success down the road. Our priority is to be active and proactive to address problems, seek out solutions and embrace opportunities.
The Downtown Strategy team is focused on four areas important to a vibrant downtown and our city’s economic resilience. These working areas all support Calgary’s economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy.
The Downtown Strategy team
How we're doing
Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan and Financial Commitment
Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan is our way forward. We have a vision, roadmap and commitment to build a thriving, future-focused downtown. The Plan focuses on building a downtown that is Calgary’s bustling centre of commerce and a 24/7 destination. Calgary’s future success relies on downtown being a place where people want to live, visit and set up businesses. It needs to move beyond the traditional 9 to 5 business district towards a vibrant city centre people enjoy 24/7, with a balanced mix of residential, office, retail, entertainment, tourism and culture.
The Plan is supported by a $200 million initial investment focused on areas that start to lower office vacancy, improve downtown vibrancy, and support the development of thriving neighbourhoods that attract residents, visitors, and talent for downtown’s businesses.
Downtown Programming Initiative
Supporting downtown community partners’ vibrancy and community-building programming and events.
What's happening now
Downtown the place
We aim to invest in the physical spaces, buildings, and infrastructure to increase the number of downtown residents and visitors, and drive investment into our downtown.
Over the next 15 years, we will create a downtown that’s more attractive to current and future businesses, residents and visitors.
The City and its partners have made a commitment to improving public spaces throughout downtown – including walking and cycling connections, our major downtown activity hubs, and major capital projects that will drive arts and culture, sports, and business opportunities into the area for decades to come.
What we're focused on
Investing in Calgary's public spaces
Investing in the future of public spaces is a fundamental piece of the Downtown Strategy in order to support and incentivize private investment, generate visits and spending, and provide amenities and services to enhance the quality of life for people living and working in Calgary’s downtown.
Investment in public space projects, including: the Eau Claire Promenade, Jaipur Bridge Replacement, 5 Street S.W. Underpass, the 9 Block Program, and The Future of Stephen Avenue, have the objective of building and maintaining a wonderful downtown neighbourhood. It is important that each project is implemented to meet current needs and to lay the foundation for expected future demand as Calgary grows and evolves.
Downtown's Big 3 Priority Capital Projects
The City believes investing in infrastructure supports trade, tourism and is key to job creation as well as building strong regional economies. The Event Centre in Victoria Park, BMO Convention Centre Expansion and Arts Commons Transformation are key foundations of a future Cultural and Entertainment District. These projects will help strengthen Calgary’s economy and foster business development and investment in Calgary, paying dividends for generations to come. They will serve to energize our collective spirit, bringing new event and tradeshow opportunities as well as access to arts, culture, sport and entertainment. These investments support The City’s Downtown Strategy to further Calgary’s economic growth and resilience, through being catalysts for revitalization and private investment.
The Greater Downtown Plan
On April 26, 2021, Calgary City Council approved the Greater Downtown Plan and an initial investment of $200 million to the support the actions outlined in the plan. This non-statutory document and investment allows The City and its downtown partners to take bold action and making intentional investments in public spaces, supporting vibrant neighbourhoods, and ensuring that Calgary continues to create a downtown that people want to live and work in.
Supporting the development of new and existing business in downtown Calgary by ensuring our policies and services support business success in Calgary.
We aim to support and encourage private investments in downtown businesses and buildings. Over the next 15 years, we are looking to re-energize downtown office spaces with diverse and innovative businesses and jobs.
We’ll help our existing businesses and attract new companies over the next five years, using a variety of metrics such as business counts, office vacancy rates, and industry types to measure success.
What we're focused on
Calgary Economic Development helped attract, expand and retain 15 companies in our downtown and created and retained 1,509 direct and indirect jobs. The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) was leveraged to secure high potential organizations to set up shop in Calgary, with five companies making direct and positive impacts on our downtown. Some exciting and enterprising industries have recently announced their move to the downtown core.
- Symend has raised a $73 million round of funding for its customer engagement platform designed to better connect with financially at-risk customers.
- Harvest Builders, a Calgary-based venture builder that provides a co-building approach to growing a business, will receive up to $4 million from the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) over three years to help create and sustain infrastructure in Calgary, allowing startups in western Canada to test new technologies and grow their businesses.
- ESQ Business Services chose Calgary to open its sole Canadian support and software development centre.
- the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) made a significant commitment to enhancing Calgary’s tech talent development infrastructure and combatting a shortage in this area by announcing the creation of the Digital Transformation (DX) Talent Hub.
Centre City Enterprise Area
Centre City Enterprise Area initiative waives the requirement of a development permit for changes of use, exterior alterations and small additions to businesses Downtown and in the Beltline. The initiative is aimed at reducing paperwork, time and costs required for new developments and businesses, with the overarching goal of boosting occupancy among office and retail space.
We're committed to ensuring that downtown is a neighbourhood of choice to live in. We're working to provide the amenities to enhance the quality of life for people living downtown.
Our aim is to invest in festival and events, community safety initiatives, greenspace and beautifying initiatives that complement public and private investment and to bring new and exciting experiences to our core.
What we're focused on
Benefits of Festivals and Events
Improving the capacity of the downtown to host flagship cultural events aligns with Council’s vision to elevate Calgary as a destination for tourism and event promoters. The economic benefits generated by major arts and cultural events in the downtown amount to annually more than $28 million in visitor and operational spending, 172,000 citizen volunteer hours, and $6.6 million in charitable donations which are used for medical research, education and international growth and sustainability efforts. These events deliver a significant infusion of economic activity and cultural vibrancy to the downtown.
Civic and Community Partnerships
Civic and community Partners contribute to the livability of Calgary’s downtown, including:
- Calgary TELUS Convention Centre
- Arts Commons
- Platform Calgary
- Calgary Public Library
- Tourism Calgary
- Business Improvement Areas (BIAs)
- Community and Neighbourhood Associations (CAs/NAs)
The civic and community partners help support and promote the downtown through advocacy, place making, and community-building.
Creating and managing the frameworks that connect people, goods, information and ideas.
Our aim is to attract new businesses and expand existing ones. Over the next 15 years, we will connect people, goods, information and ideas through investing in physical and digital infrastructure, mobility projects, and developing stronger networks and utility resilience.
What we're focused on
Calgary was the first major city in Canada to explore road adaptations for better pedestrian use. Calgary Roads has been adding space for pedestrians and cyclists to social distance safely by identifying areas in our downtown where “adaptive road closures” can be used. This involves closing off a lane to motor vehicle traffic and opening the lane for anyone walking, running, cycling, rollerblading and the like. The large lanes allow users to spread out at safe distances. Adaptive road closures have been changing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to meet the needs of cyclists and pedestrians.
Downtown flood resiliency
Updating our downtown’s interface with the Bow River goes beyond designing improved pathways and public spaces. It involves a flood mitigation effort that will increase resilience.
Construction of the Downtown flood barrier is underway. The Downtown flood barrier, once complete, will connect with the West Eau Claire Park flood barrier and extend to the Reconciliation Bridge to form a single, contiguous piece of flood mitigation infrastructure for Calgary’s downtown. These measures will result in reduced business and economic interruptions, and increased resilience for critical services and public infrastructure.