Plan It Prevarication

Alright well, I, like many people I suppose, have been less than diligent at keeping at keeping my blog current.  As an excuse perhaps I can blame the run of beautiful late summer/early fall we had and my proclivity to prefer outdoor activities to blogging.  Well that is clearly over as the snowflakes on the weekend demonstrated, so I am back at it!

Work seems to be going well and we are off and running to develop a business case for the City’s first potential P3 project for seven new fire halls and a fire administrative building.  We have the working group together and kick-off meeting is next Tuesday.  Looking forward to seeing the approved P3 policy in action and what the results of the business case show – despite what many P3 detractors believe, the outcome is not a foregone conclusion.

On broader City issues I note that Plan It was recently approved by Council albeit with some significant changes; key among them the the proposed density per hectare was reduced from 70 people/jobs to 60.  Developers argue that the former objective was unattainable given market-based preferences for single family homes.  I guess this is likely true though, in this case, the “market” has more to do with the fact that building single family homes is much cheaper and therefore profitable than mid to high density.  Add to that the pervasive believe that high density = slum in these parts and you get a tough battle to fight.  Of course it’s a common story for many many cities in North America that are surrounded by abundant relatively cheap land, and have no rigorous regional planning controls in place.  Moreover, developers can make the affordability arguement as it will always be far cheaper to build a 1500 sq ft bungalow than a multi-unit condo building, and happily for them, bigger margins.

In fact, it may be the high-density will not work in Calgary but Plan It will still encourage moderate density nodes around some LRT stops, transportation modal diversity beyond the car, and much better suburban densities than many U.S. cities achieve.  Significant high-rise construction was already under way or planned in areas such as the Beltline, Victoria Park and the East Village – this may have been derailed somewhat by the market, but with a strong outlook for energy prices, these projects will eventually restart.  As with other places, traffic congestion and sky-high parking costs will drive demand for inner city housing.

That’s it for now – more to come (soon I swear!)

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