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Old Posted Dec 3, 2019, 6:54 AM
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Calgary: The rise of the suburbs, the decline of downtown

December 2, 2019 Richard White OPINION

Calgary has always been a suburban city from a residential perspective.

In the 21st Century, the suburbs have also risen in importance as a place for Calgarians to work, play and be entertained. There is less and less and need to go to downtown Calgary.

You know the suburbs are on the rise and the downtown is in decline when two of the city’s most recent, and controversial, public art projects – Giant Blue Ring and Bowfort Towers – are at the edge of the city, not downtown Calgary. Public art was always downtown in the 20th century.

Inland Port City
While employment has declined downtown, it has increased the city’s northeast and southeast quadrants, as well as outside the city’s boundaries. Some of the big names that have mega regional warehouse and distribution centers in Calgary are – Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart, Whirlpool and Tim Hortons.

Indeed, Calgary has evolved into major North American inland port with both Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways having major Intermodal Facilities and CN had created Canada’s only intermodal business park in the north east community of Conrich.

Over the past 10 years, The City’s Industrial Land Program has serviced and sold over 700 acres, which has supported the development of over six million square feet of space with a 2018 assessed value of over $1 billion. For the citizens of Calgary that has meant over $70 million in new cumulative tax revenue and more than 8,000 jobs.

“What’s unique about the City’s Industrial Land Strategy,” explained Spencer McClurg, Manager, Real Estate Sales & Acquisitions with the City of Calgary, “is that we contribute five percent of our gross sales proceeds to support the development of new affordable housing in Calgary.”

Since 2013, when the Industrial Land Strategy was approved, RE&DS has contributed over $10 million to affordable housing.


In 2019, almost 1.3 million square feet of industrial space has been leased. That’s almost the equivalent the Bow Tower. (CBRE Q3 Industrial Report Calgary)

In the third quarter of 2019, the downtown office market experienced almost 200,000 square feet of negative absorption, while suburban office space has a 230,000 square feet of positive absorption. (CBRE Q3 2019 office report Calgary)

Indeed, the economic engine has quietly shifted from downtown Calgary to east of Deerfoot Divide.

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