Civic Commons Catalyst proposes strategic interventions for downtown Calgary

The Civic Commons Catalyst, a transdisciplinary research partnership under the Center for Civilization between the University of Calgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL), the School of Public Policy (SPP), Evergreen, the City of Calgary, proposes strategic interventions for downtown Calgary.

The Catalyst presents plans to reinvent the city’s vacant public spaces with a hyperloop station, a waste-to-energy facility, a Calgary Airport-Downtown-Banff Rail, crypto-mining farms, hydroponic facilities, an innovation district, and an artist/rainbow village.

“The goal of Civic Commons Catalyst is to create a more resilient future for Calgary’s vacant downtown spaces. Our phase one research culminated in 20 strategic recommendations for unique spatial projects that will transform downtown Calgary, and help spur economic recovery and investment,” says Alberto de Salvatierra, assistant professor, SAPL, UCalgary and director and founder, Center for Civilization.

Phase one of the Civic Commons Catalyst’s research culminated in a list of 20 recommended strategic interventions for Calgary. The proposals catalyze underutilized spaces across the city into positive assets for the public.

Six research areas, including interviews, horizon scanning, public policy, finance innovation, geospatial data and urban design, along with the support of 13 UCalgary graduate students, were used to gather the data and determine the interventions.

According to the University of Calgary, de Salvatierra has secured nearly a million dollars in project support from a range of organizations, including a grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation. 

Image: Civic Commons Catalyst Downtown Catalogue. Image courtesy of Center for Civilization

This funding allows the project to move into phase two with an expanded team of 25 researchers and will focus on bringing stakeholders, such as building owners and operators, developers, policy makers, community associations and civic leaders, together to facilitate these 20 recommendations

“The Civic Commons Catalyst drives the transformational and long-term change we were looking for through our one-time legacy grant program. We’ve heard from our stakeholders that to navigate this emerging world, we need to be intentional about fostering a future that contributes to healthy, vibrant Alberta communities. The ripples of this project will be felt in Calgary’s downtown economic recovery and the real estate industry throughout the province. We are thrilled to fund this critical work,” says Patti Morris, executive director, Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

As Calgary moves into phase two, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Okotoks will start phase one research. Currently, select existing phase one work is viewable until December 30 in the Create Space at the Central Library in the interactive exhibition “Comple(x)ity: Data, Discovery and Design.” In 2022, this research on Alberta’s innovative approach to downtown revitalization will be shared in a series of knowledge mobilization activities. The project’s work will also be available to the public through lectures, exhibitions and a regional/national forum hosted by Evergreen.

“This project has the potential to radically transform the landscape of available strategies to address the 30 per cent vacancy in Calgary’s downtown core and to provide a model for other cities to leverage their underutilized civic assets. Embedding this in UCalgary leverages the institution’s significant intellectual and creative capacity, and helps de-risk innovation for municipal governments. It’s exemplifies the kind of forward-looking innovation that is gaining momentum and having an impact in communities across the country,” says Robert Plitt, associate, Evergreen.

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