News   Apr 03, 2020
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Calgary's Downtown Dilemma

For those that are downtown either living or working, this is no surprise. However it does confirm that even without COVID closures and restrictions for an extended period of time, retail & hospitality businesses are still struggling. Surprising that there is no mention of how many empty street front spaces there are in the core, and even in the Beltline, that were once occupied by a store or restaurant. The writer seems to meander a bit, for example talking about the event center being a possible savior. Personally, I don't think that is going to do anything for businesses in the downtown core.
They've touched on the issues for sure. The double whammy of high vacancy rates and people working from home have caused an issue for downtown businesses. Not just here but probably other cities as well. On recent visits to Ottawa I've noticed that their downtown these days is a complete ghost town, even more than Calgary. The Byward Market which can usually be counted on for some life, is also kind of a ghost town these days.

Crime is also factoring in, but I bet some of that is related to the lack of people, and the homeless situation is now more overt with less people on the streets. This seems to also be the case in Ottawa, as homeless issues are much more noticeable in their downtown and Byward Market area. In my last visit to the market, I felt like I was one of the few people around who wasn't homeless. Their vacancy rate is much lower than here, but they have a lot of people working from home.

It'll take a while but if they can get more residents downtown, and have more businesses that open to the street rather than in the +15, we could see some improvement.
The new arena will do jack for empty retail spaces in the core, it might help the immediate area ever so slightly. We already have an arena, and the area around the Stampede grounds is a dead zone.
New arena won't help make the grounds more vibrant. Some restaurants might spring up and be busy before event nights but why would you go down to the grounds unless they're able to make the grounds a destination? You're surely not going to pay to park around the arena to go have a generic experience you can have in any strip mall restaurant. Playoffs would be different but you cannot rely on that.
Originally, the entertainment district along Stampede Way was designed to be a destination (a Margaritaville location was planned among others). That together with the event center & BMO expansion would become the year round draw. From that the empty parking lots surrounding would be be turned into multi-family residential or mixed use. Sounds like a plan ....YES!!! Except the entertainment district is waiting on the event center which is stalled, and other developers are waiting for some kind of catalyst to believe in. Meanwhile the BMO expansion is on track for opening in 2024 and along with the old Saddledome nothing much will change. People will come to a trade show or a hockey game and that's it. There will be nothing else in the area to make them want to come down before or stay after. And the empty parking lots will remain for awhile longer. Sad when a plan can't come together.

The Herald is giving a lot of attention to downtown this week. Some interesting data about office vacancies.
A paragraph in the middle of that article caught me eye...

"Opus Corp. CEO Hannes Kovac, co-chair of the real estate sector advisory committee at Calgary Economic Development, said there is demand for up to one million square feet of office space for post-secondary institutions in the downtown, such as for the University of Calgary, SAIT or Mount Royal University."

I'd like Hannes to expand on this... who's demand is this? Institutions like he mentioned or is there demand from others (CofC, CED, etc.) that institutions occupy that 'one million square feet'.

Also, can we not forget about our existing downtown post-secondary institution, Bow Valley College. Some pretty obvious synergies there to start up some kind of other campus; they're already downtown, would be linked to the west part of downtown via the Free Fair Zone.
Not demand as conventionally characterized: someone out and shopping for space.

Demand as in, if someone was to pay for space for them, they would occupy it usefully!
I feel like that is a bit misleading of a term. I would sure use a lot of stuff if others were to give it to me for free. Like a boat for instance. Doesn't mean it is demand.... or a good idea (the boat, not sure about post secodnary) ;)
It would be nice if one of the post secondary institutions took up a downtown towers like the Nexen tower. I use Nexen as an example because it's mostly empty, and sits right beside a park.
Plus it’s at a station nexus and has a built-in food court and winter garden already. It would be the perfect tower for it. Despite the awkward floor plate, you’d have enough space for larger lecture or lab spaces along with smaller spaces all on each floor.