Innovative ideas, smart design and strong planning can help create vibrant urban centres. If that sounds right to you then you would’ve enjoyed Rollin Stanley’s keynote address at the Centre City Congress. Last June, Stanley joined The City of Calgary as the General Manager for Planning, Development & Assessment. No doubt, he brings a wealth of knowledge and passion in design and urban planning to the role. With Stanley as part of the Planning, Development & Assessment team, new ideas are coming out for the Centre City and for Calgary overall, and that’s an exciting change for our city.
A lot of these new ideas about vibrant urban centers and the importance of good public space and building design were shared by Stanley in an action packed 30 minute presentation as the keynote speaker at The Centre City Congress. As he spoke, Rollin gave his impressions about who we are and where he sees us going as a city.
Calgary is already a great city but Stanley is confident that we can make it even better. He is looking to focus specifically on making it a more vibrant city that draws those in that are intrigued by the design and cultural variety that he believes our Centre City can deliver, to make Calgary stand out more on the international stage. An example of a recent stand out project is the Calatrava Peace Bridge, which is already being recognized on the global stage for its impressive design.
INVESTING IN INFRASTRUCTURE
Stanley stressed that it is important for The City to focus on creating spaces that have the potential to evolve over time. We also need to invest in infrastructure and come up with creative ways to generate revenue for projects. As always, during the planning stages Stanley said it’s a great idea to look to other cities that have implemented similar plans and succeeded. For example, the city of Melbourne did an excellent job of redefining itself. He believes Calgary should follow suit and head in the direction of redefinition, emphasizing that developing specific and detailed criteria and objectives for each project is a key in making this happen. Our city already has so much to offer, it just needs to increase ways of showcasing our work to the world.
LINKING PEOPLE AND PLACES
Building on his idea of redefining Calgary, Stanley stressed the approach of focusing on well designed adaptable public spaces that serve as connecting points between urban places. These spots reinforce or create vistas for orientation and include transition spaces between one space and another. One place he mentioned that has great power and engages people is the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. In addition to creating great spaces that have a memorable sense of place, Stanley emphasized that “we have to start thinking about having some fun” downtown. This concept of maintaining Centre City as a fun and exciting place where citizens look to for a sense of culture and community was a central topic that was carried throughout the Congress.
FUNDING & INCENTIVES
But how do we make this happen? Stanley said that there a variety of mechanisms that have worked in other cities. These include leveraging the value of density through incentives for developers, implementing measures to help a diversity of people and businesses to be able to stay downtown, and using tools like Tax incremental financing to pay for the infrastructure we desire. In order for The City to achieve its mission it should look to partnerships, changing legislation and possible assistance through creative tax options. Building high quality public spaces and infrastructure is key to the long term success of the Centre City, the economic engine of Calgary.
Another area Rollin believes we should promote is sustainable projects. These include generating our own energy with solar and wind and embracing district energy. We have the plant built. Now, we need to connect and use it. Also thinking about where we get our materials and food is important to supporting local business and reducing our carbon footprint.
At the Centre City Congress, Rollin Stanley brought to the table just what Calgary expected, great ideas and a can do attitude. Now all we need to do is continue to build on these ideas to implement a better than ever Centre City! What fun ideas would you like to see implemented in Calgary?