Yesterday, The City of Calgary expanded the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program beyond office to residential conversions so that it now also provides grants to building owners who would like to convert empty office space to hotels, schools and performing arts spaces.
Two new incentive programs have also been created, supporting office conversion to post-secondary institutions as well as office demolition for buildings that are not suitable for conversion or reuse.
City Council approved the expansion of the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program in order to encourage a more diverse mix of amenities and services downtown that will make the area more attractive to live in and visit. Collectively, the three incentive programs will support the revitalization of downtown through the creation of new housing, amenities, services and outdoor public spaces.
"What happens downtown has a direct impact on our city's livability and economic success in terms of revenue, tax base and ability to provide services,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek. “The Downtown Development Incentive Program has been incredibly successful so far and we are already one-third of the way to our 10-year goal of removing six million square feet of empty office space. As the demand for urban living remains high, the natural next step is to expand the program to develop both more residential units as well as projects that create amenities and services for residents close by."
Revised Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program is being broadened to include conversion projects for hotels, schools and performing arts spaces. These new conversion categories will encourage a more diverse mix of amenities and services downtown that will make downtown more attractive to live in and visit. We are also streamlining the program’s approval process by increasing the internal approvals threshold from $10 million to $15 million. This speeds up the approval process for larger projects (up to 200,000 square feet) by removing the need for Council approval. Increasing this threshold reduces risk for applicants and speeds up project approvals.
The Downtown Post-Secondary Institution Incentive Program provides financial incentives for post-secondary institutions to establish a greater presence downtown. This would bring an influx of students downtown, which would support downtown’s vibrancy during all hours of the day, support existing businesses and would encourage new businesses to be established. City Council approved $9 million in November 2022 for a pilot project to support the conversion of vacant office space to house the University of Calgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL). The Downtown Post-Secondary Institution Incentive Program follows this pilot project and sets out program criteria for applicants, approvals process and funding sources for future office to post-secondary conversions.
The Downtown Office Demolition Incentive Program incentivizes the demolition of buildings that are deemed ‘end-of-life’ and are not suitable for conversion or reuse. The program will support non-office redevelopment and the creation of new public amenity space. Currently, $3 million in funding exists for this program, and additional funding sources may be identified in the future pending grant interest and demand.
“The Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program was created to remove excess office space from downtown, support downtown vibrancy and ultimately support The City’s fiscal sustainability by restoring downtown property values,” said Natalie Marchut, Manager, Development & Strategy for The City’s Downtown Strategy. “Supporting post-secondary institutions will bring more students downtown, breathing new life, activity and innovation into our downtown. Creating new public amenity space through demolition of empty buildings supports the initial intent of the program, making downtown more livable, vibrant, and more attractive for both residents and visitors.”
Should all 14 projects proceed, they will remove two million square feet of empty office space from our downtown and create more than 2,000 homes for Calgarians. That’s one-third of the way to The City’s 10-year goal of removing six million square feet of empty downtown office space.
CJWE spoke with Natalie Marchut, Manager of Development and Strategy for the City of Calgary about the program, along with wanting a working relationship with Indigenous communities to help with the revitalize the downtown core in the City.