Public-private partnership poised to reverse flight to the suburbs

By Robert Frank

Calgary is well positioned to repopulate its central core by adopting smart-growth plans that marry public policy objectives with tangible economic opportunities for developers.

“Calgary’s not alone,” observed Larry Beasley. “We’ve made amazing progress across the country building city-core communities that people want to live in.”

Beasley, who triumphed at transforming downtown Vancouver, now advises other cities how to revive their cores as high-density, multi-family, mixed-use, walkable, transit-oriented communities.

He was so successful there that more children now live in downtown Vancouver than any individual neighbouring suburb.

“Nearly 30 per cent of inner-city households are families with children,” Beasley noted.” Calgary could easily do likewise.”

“It is already very livable, safe and has great infrastructure,” he affirmed, “but to capitalize on the great development opportunities in the Calgary core, it’s not enough to have an explicit public policy and few developers who tap into the kick-start part of the market: young singles and empty nesters.”

“Ultimately, you need to get the public sector involved to be successful,” Beasley explained, “because individual developers can’t deliver the schools, community facilities, child care, parks, safety and noise- and privacy-management that government can.”

“For the private sector to delivers the housing, there needs to be some public funding to make these things happen,” he continued. “People don’t buy homes based on efficiency or cost. They base their choice on the quality of experience that they will enjoy there.” 

Beasley said that a thoughtful, well-articulated policy and support for an understanding industry is the way to get there.

“When they took the risk in Vancouver and tested the market with these new products, families signed up in droves,” he concluded. “It’s a remarkable downtown core, because you now see thousands of children there.”
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Note: This report appeared on page 36 of the Fall 2013 issue of Canadian Real Estate Magazine.

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