Calgary's greater downtown plan

The future of Calgary’s downtown Calgary's Greater Downtown Plan

Downtown is the economic and cultural heart of Calgary. It’s our central hub for business, innovation and creativity. What happens downtown has a direct impact on all Calgarians. Calgary needs a strong core to grow our economy, create jobs and fund the City services we rely on every day. 

Downtown is central to Calgary’s economic recovery

The challenge

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. 

Learn more about our roadmap to reinvention

Now is the time for bold action

Downtown must transform towards a more balanced mix of residential, office, retail, entertainment, tourism, and culture. The City and its downtown partners must make the bold moves required to shift from vacancy to vibrancy. We are making an initial investment in our downtown that will start this shift.

Our investment in downtown revitalization is focused on areas that will 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.

Financial incentives for downtown office conversions

Downtown office vacancy is at approximately 12 million square feet which translates into approximately 30 percent. The status quo scenario is the biggest risk to downtown vibrancy, Calgary’s economic competitiveness, and fiscal sustainability. Downtown office property values have declined by $16 billion since 2015, or 60 percent, resulting in the tax shift situation that affects City finances and residential, commercial, and industrial property taxes throughout the city.

The City worked in collaboration with industry experts including Calgary Economic Development’s (CED) Real Estate Sector Advisory Committee (RESAC) and the Real Estate Working Group (REWG) to develop an incentives package for downtown office conversions.

Converting office to residential uses is complex and expensive, with incentives being required to stimulate investment. To date, 13 office conversion projects have been supported to date that collectively will remove 1.67 million Sq ft of office space in the downtown and will deliver 1,500 new homes for Calgarians. In addition to these 13 that are already approved, underway and built, there are another 4 conversion projects in the pipeline that would see the removal of an additional 680,000 sq ft and the creation of another 800 homes. Collectively, these projects will create ~2,300 homes for Calgarians and will remove ~2.3 million square feet of downtown office space from the market.

Learn more here.

Financial incentives to encourage the demolition of existing office space

The purpose of the Downtown Office Demolition Incentive Program (Demolition Program) is to provide a financial incentive to encourage the removal of excess office space in the Greater Downtown Plan Area.

The Demolition Program is offering a grant at 50% of demolition costs not to exceed a rate of $15 per square foot based on the original gross floor area of existing office space that will be demolished. An additional $5 per square foot may be considered for projects requiring asbestos abatement and/or hazardous material removal, not to exceed 50% of total demolition costs.

The grant will be up to a maximum of $3 million per property unless Council approves a greater amount for a particular application.

Learn more here.

Financial incentives to offset +15 Fund contributions for residential development

Residential development in the downtown core often includes the requirement to contribute to the Plus 15 Fund, which supports construction, operation, and maintenance of downtown’s Plus 15 system. This can create a potential financial barrier to residential development in the downtown core.

The City will provide $2 million in incentives to developers who initiate residential projects in the downtown core to offset any required Plus 15 Fund contribution, up to $1 million per project. This removes a potential barrier for new residential development as well as any additions to existing buildings to accommodate new residential use. Projects must be completed within a designated time period to receive the incentive.

Impactful capital projects to improve public spaces, create vibrancy and support complete neighbourhoods

Implementing the Greater Downtown Plan means allocating funding for impactful projects, big and small, which move the plan from from a planning document to real actions. We’ve identified downtown vibrancy projects that contribute to one or more of the following objectives:

  • Activate public places and spaces
  • Catalyze private investment in the Greater Downtown
  • Increase attractiveness of public spaces to Calgarians
  • Allow The City and our partners to pilot, experiment, & prototype longer term projects
  • Promote tourism and increase visitor numbers to the Greater Downtown
  • Enhance safety & security for residents, workers, and visitors

Capital projects underway that will improve vibrancy in Calgary’s downtown:

  • Stephen Avenue 
    •   Exploring fresh ideas for downtown Calgary’s hallmark main street
  • Riverwalk West
    • Create a gateway to the Bow River and river pathway system in Downtown West
  • 8th Street S.W.
    • Improving north-south connections from the Bow River to Downtown West and the Beltline
  • Olympic Plaza Transformation
    • Re-imagining our Olympic legacy by renovating the living room for City Hall and Arts Commons

Activating downtown public spaces with festivals, events and community spaces to build vibrancy

Activating places and spaces is essential to increase downtown vibrancy and make downtown a place that people want to live, visit, and establish a business. The City is setting aside funds to support and enable our downtown partners plan and execute vibrancy-building programming and events.

Additional programming and events that will be supported will be determined in consultation with our downtown partners, business improvement areas, and community associations.

A dedicated City of Calgary Downtown team

To activate the Greater Downtown Plan move forward with the actions and projects that have been identified as priorities to shifting the downtown from vacancy to vibrancy, The City has allocated resources to a team dedicated to moving the actions required through this investment package forward.

Arts Commons Transformation Phase 1

For the last 35 years, Arts Commons has been a key contributor to social, economic, cultural, and intellectual life in Calgary. As Canada’s third largest arts centre, it is home to six resident companies and used by over 200 community groups.

The Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) project of expanding and upgrading Arts Commons supports the goal of improving and diversifying Calgary’s economy. It supports the Downtown Strategy and is considered a catalyst project for the Culture + Entertainment District.

Executed in two Phases, Arts Commons Transformation will both expand capacity in an adjoining new building and renew the existing facility.

Phase one of the transformation will expand capacity at a new location called Arts Commons North, or The Roadhouse. The Roadhouse will include three versatile, purpose-built venues, a connection to the existing building and supporting amenities. This 173,000 square-foot space will include a new 1,200 seat theatre, two smaller theatres, rehearsal space and an elevated corridor to the existing building and related amenities.

The Government of Canada recently announced its intention to double the federal Gas Tax Fund for one year, as the newly renamed Canada Community-Building Fund. This $77 million of new federal funding will be directed for the Arts Commons Transformation (ACT) Project Phase 1.

The ACT project has been identified as a catalytic project for downtown vibrancy for over 15 years. Arts Commons, inclusive of the 6 resident companies, currently contributes $53 million to Calgary’s economy annually and supports 683 jobs.

Upon ACT completion, Arts Commons will annually support 55 jobs in Calgary, provide $239M in labour income, and contribute $0.1M in government revenues and $386M to GDP.

With two-thirds of the funding for Phase 1 already in place, through the province and the City, this $80M will provide the remaining funding required, fulfill the Federal government’s funding pledge, and result in all three levels of government support. With $77M coming from the Canada Community-Building Fund, the City is only required to top up $3M to achieve full funding for Phase 1 of ACT.

Learn more about the Arts Commons Transformation.

Support for Calgary's Greater Downtown Plan

Hanif Joshaghani - CEO, Symend

Bobbie Racette - CEO, Virtual Gurus

Derek Evans - CEO, MEG Energy

What is the Greater Downtown?

The Greater Downtown is made up of six communities that surround the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers. 

  • Downtown Core
  • Downtown West
  • Eau Claire
  • Chinatown
  • East Village
  • The Beltline

The vision

Calgary’s bustling centre of commerce and a 24/7 destination

Our future success relies on downtown being a place where people want to live, visit and set up businesses. We need 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. 

This information has no legal status and cannot be used as an official interpretation of the various bylaws, codes and regulations currently in effect. The City of Calgary accepts no responsibility to persons relying solely on this information. Web pages are updated periodically. ​