Over the last 18 months the City of Calgary has been conducting engagement sessions to explore a new concept in zoning and transit oriented development for implementation of a Main Streets approach to growth and development. Under the Main Streets initiative, the City is working with residents, business and transit users to explore the impact this approach will have on development of areas identified as Main Streets.
The identification and assessment of transit corridors for higher density is needed, and an extensive engagement process has been undertaken. The resulting outcomes should provide clear incentive and controls for developers, pushing redevelopment towards a transit oriented approach that aligns with the Municipal Development Plan.
All City departments are working together on the Main Streets initiative hoping to implement consistent development incentive’s along with new programs that encourage heritage preservation, public space improvements, community association support mechanisms and new walkable community corridors.
The move towards increased density along transit corridors is smart. The high-traffic, well serviced corridors offer the best opportunity to increase density (with increased height) while reducing the vehicle load on the areas by encouraging lower parking-requirement ratios for residential and commercial uses alike.
An excellent example of an early adopter for the Main Street policies is the recently approved Legion Site, by Truman Homes. Imagine if you will, the magnitude of density that could be achieved along Kensington Road, West of 14th Street if many similar buildings can be approved.
The Main Streets initiative seeks to locate and stimulate redevelopment in appropriate locations (which means the preservation of single-family homes in the surrounding areas). Clear and mutually beneficial guidelines and zoning bylaws in these targeted areas will stimulate the economy and revitalize the surrounding areas with new residents, new commercial space and revitalized public areas.
As Calgary seeks to balance its growth between greenspace growth and redevelopment of existing communities, the Main Streets initiative is a critical tool for achieving targeted growth rates in established communities. The “where and how” of appropriate growth and redevelopment are beginning to be answered through this initiative. Hopefull
y, the outcome will be clear guidelines, clear boundaries, new land use bylaws and global implementation of those bylaws in the targeted corridors.
In the meantime, early adopters are looking at the targeted corridors and bringing forward applications that seek to achieve the outcomes already being considered. The approval of these early applications indicates Council’s alignment with both the MDP and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) goals and guidelines for redevelopment. Continued support for applications that address transit, walkability, positive pedestrian experiences and those that seek to mitigate the impact of larger buildings on the surrounding neighborhood (with step-backs and shadow mitigation such as those seen on the Legion design) should be expected as the City seeks to achieve it’s own growth goals.
As is often stated, fighting growth is like standing on the train tracks trying to stop the train: it just gets you run over; better to be way out in front determining where the tracks are going to. It’s encouraging to see the City taking the initiative to engage the public and developers as they seek to determine the best place for growth to happen in established communities. Looking at high-traffic, well transit serviced areas makes a lot of sense. In the long term, the growing pains communities experiencing redevelopment are feeling will today result in healthier growth and density in appropriate places. A win for everyone.
If you would like to read more about achieving smarter growth in Calgary, through redevelopment and the benefits to established communities, visit www.SmarterGrowth.ca for extensive materials developed by Urban Development Institute – Calgary and the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Calgary Region.
A few of our favorites are listed below:
- Nimby-to-Yimby – Why say “Yes” to redevelopment next door? (video)
- The 7 Goals of Calgary’s MDP (article)
- How to Build a Great City (pdf)