Calgary Economic Development is the steward of the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, which envisions the city as the destination of choice for the world’s best entrepreneurs who embrace innovation to solve global challenges. To achieve this vision, a vibrant downtown is critical.
The most recent New Economy LIVE event delved deeper into the importance of downtown vibrancy and the connection between liveability, urban design and public spaces. The webinar began with a presentation on the Greater Downtown Plan by Thom Mahler, Manager, Urban Initiatives, City of Calgary.
“Downtown is central to Calgary's economic recovery,” said Mahler. “Placemaking investments will attract business, talent and visitors to build future community vibrancy.”
The Greater Downtown Plan, which received $200 million in initial funding, sets into motion the transformation of Calgary’s downtown into the economic and cultural heart of the city for decades to come: a resilient and vibrant place for everyone, with welcoming neighbourhoods, active streets, and well-used, diverse public spaces. The plan sees Calgary’s downtown as the central hub for business, innovation and creativity – a strong core to grow the economy, create jobs and fund essential city services.
“If we design for the least fortunate in our society then we get it right for everyone. This requires multiple inputs from groups to be involved in making decisions,” said panelist Francisco Alaniz Uribe, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, University of Calgary. “What’s really important as well is our role in designing spaces that have to do with reconciliation. We have many opportunities to bring reconciliation as part of our process and it has to be at the top of our priorities.”
The panelists discussed how becoming Canada’s top destination for talent and growing Calgary’s innovation ecosystem, will require all levels of government, businesses and the community need to work together to reimagine the traditional 9-to-5 business district towards a vibrant city centre everyone can enjoy 24/7 – a downtown with a balanced mix of residential, office, retail, entertainment, tourism and culture.
“It is a collective effort. A gathering of thought and shared collective vision is what the downtown needs,” said panelist Kate Thompson, President & CEO, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. “It’s not going to be one group or one company that turns the downtown around, it’s going to be buying into a collective vision that morphs and shapes over time.”
Thom Mahler agreed that “listening will be the most critical part and there’s a recognition that there’s a lot we can do as a city, and our city facilities and spaces, to make a difference to people – it should be welcoming for everybody.”
To future-proof and innovate for the next generation, the Greater Downtown Plan outlines strategic moves to attract the global technology sector, utilize Calgary’s highly educated workforce and leverage Calgary’s head office concentration to prosper in the new digital economy.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about the youth and how we show them there are opportunities for them here and that there’s truthful economic diversification,” said Christina Stevens, Project Lead, Platform Innovation Centre, Platform Calgary. “There’s amazing programming coming out of our post-secondary institutions and it’s about continually highlighting our innovation stories – the startups, the exits – that entrepreneurship is a viable job.”
The complimentary New Economy Live webinar drew over 230 attendees to explore Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan and the pillars of the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, which includes Talent, Place, Business Environment and Innovation.
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