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June 4, 2018: Rollin Stanley, GM of Urban Strategy , City of Calgary.     City webpage

Linda Haines introduced our guest speaker, Rollin Stanley. He has worked in four major metro areas in North America, including Washington DC, St. Louis, and Toronto. His attention has focused on urban, suburban, and rural environments - some distressed; some booming.

As GM, he runs the Urban Strategy Department for the City of Calgary, looking at major plays and identifying strategic city building opportunities.

Rollin started off by calling Calgary a resilient city: look at our flooding situation in 2013 and how quickly the response came from many sectors of the city to get power restored, water and debris cleaned up. In short, getting the city back to normal in record time.

He had an impactful series of slides showing the growth patterns in 10-year increments from 1901 to 2013. We grew by the population of Airdrie in less than a year and a half; not just population, but all the related services and infrastructure that goes with such rapid growth!!

We all know the effects the falling oil prices has had and, in some cases, still is having on our city. Building permit values plunged and the market had a glut of multi-unit buildings and entry level homes. Many existing areas have a decline in population as children leave home. We turn our attention to social resiliency. Although we have urban sprawl, we do not have the traffic some urban centers deal with. Rollin said the reason he was not here at the start of the meeting was he needed to get a different presentation from his office downtown, so he was there and back in 35 minutes!

Calgary has what is termed a population dome, an aging population. Between 1986 and 2006 there has been a 202% increase in our seniors’ population, and it is predicted to increase even more in the coming years. Who will pay to look after this sector as the adult working population is on the decline as well? How will needs change as the first wave of the boomers hit 65? We will need more age-friendly housing. Will the seniors be able to age in their current neighbourhoods? This depends on two factors: the availability of non-single dwelling types, such as apartments, and the availability of rental housing.

Focusing on environmental resiliency, there is embodied energy in re-purposing older buildings. That could involve adding on vertically, or restoring derelict buildings. Unbelievably, a wood frame building is cheaper to build and maintain for an apartment building.

Calgary has had to diversify its economic base as the price of oil dropped a couple of years ago. He suggested we go out to the NE sector of the city to see the business sector booming. There is more tax revenue per occupant in a condo/apartment building than in a single-family home. Even more staggering is the positive tax revenue generated from a downtown office high-rise compared to any other building types in the city.

E-commerce is generating an oversupply of retail space. Sears is one of the casualties of brick and mortar sales. Rollin piqued our interest into how North Hill will be transformed in the near future, but kept the secret on the QT.

Can Walmart compete with Amazon? Not in product selection. Where Walmart does have an edge is in its gigantic parking lots at every store. Amazon is scrambling to find the space it needs for distribution. Walmart can build additions on existing space to increase their delivery times to their on-line shoppers.

One solution to increased tax revenue is by mining serviced land. On main corridors such as Bowness Road encouraging 4-,6- and 8-story buildings. If the Green Line comes in there should be more density around the stops, unlike the West Line, to generate higher tax revenues. City Hall balances the commercial tax base with the residential tax base. In the downtown core there are lots of buildings approved, but not yet built, with many more untapped opportunities.

In answering questions from the floor, he suggested that the challenge for West Village is that there is less land to develop and older buildings. Any builder needs to see the potential as viable. An educational institution servicing up to 20,000 students in that area would be a bigger tax source than an arena.

The new budget format at City Hall is based on lines of service and there are 64 of them. The politicians have cut the budget by $562 million. City departments no longer work in silos. For example, every department associated with providing roads or paving needs to work with every other department to a common goal within a set budgetary amount.

Just to maintain our quality of life by providing parks, swimming pools, roads, etc., means an increase in taxes. By increasing the density, the per-occupant cost decreases: again the Green Line is cited as an example.

Recreation facilities, like municipal golf courses, are being closed as they are so expensive. To build a field house in the west end, will require additional tax revenues even though there is $562 M in cost savings. The tax base is shrinking.

Chris Davis thanked our speaker and mentioned the many balls that Rollin juggles at any given time, including vision, reality, and practicality. Rollin opted for a donation to Operation Eyesight in his name as he had already received our Boltman on a previous presentation to the club four years ago.

  • Chris Davis, Rollin Stanley, and Ben Kormos Chris Davis, Rollin Stanley, and Ben Kormos

reported by Judy Cochran

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