Reining in Sprawl Won't Be Easy; One of Canada's Worst Offenders Shows Why

With its progressive mayor and recent examples of exemplary architecture and urbanism, you'd think alternatives to sprawl would be an easy sell in Calgary. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong, says Christopher Hume.
March 10, 2013, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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A dramatic footbridge by Spanish architect/engineer Santiago Calatrava and a mixed-use neighborhood (Garrison Woods) built on a former military base in Calgary's east end, are among the small steps that demonstrate an alternative to the anonymous sprawl that occupies a reported 95 percent of the area's population growth. But achieving these successes wasn't easy, notes Hume.   

"A proud City of Calgary featured Garrison Woods on the cover of a recent planning document. The irony, [mayor Naheed Nenshi] pointed out, is that the neighbourhood everyone loves broke 'every single rule' in the planning book. Getting it done took more than a decade as the city fought its own requirements every step of the way."

"At the same time, developers continue the discredited and ruinous 'multiplication by subdivision' approach that has turned the outer reaches of Calgary into endless tracts of cookie-cutter housing."

“Why do we persist in building stuff people don’t want and that doesn’t work?” Nenshi asked planners at a recent conference.

"It’s a good question;" says Hume, "one most Canadian cities, Toronto included, would be hard-pressed to answer. Everywhere one looks, planning rules are stuck back in the days of freeways and shopping centres."

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Published on Friday, March 8, 2013 in The Toronto Star
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