Calgary Today (1990-present)
When the 1990s began, Calgary's economy was neither booming nor recessionary. Overseas investments dropped during the decade and the oil industry remained largely stagnant. By the late 1990s, high energy prices and Calgary's investments in the prosperous tar sands sent Calgary into another economic boom. In addition, Calgary's economy expanded into other industries, particularly in the sector of new information technologies. This new development directly contributed to the city's real estate boom, low vacancy rates, and high real estate prices.
City council continued to revitalize the downtown core and restore downtown's night life. The C-Train system was expanded and new skyscrapers were erected, including the Trans Canada Pipelines Building, the north building of the Telus Convention Centre connected with a new, 350-room Hyatt Hotel. Work also began on Bankers Hall West, the 2nd tallest building in Calgary at 47 storeys, lagging only behind Petro-Canada Centre West building, completed in 1984. Chinatown underwent redevelopment to give it more character; new residential buildings were added, along with more public spaces and streetscape improvements. In addition, the Chinese Cultural Centre was built in the downtown neighborhood. Part of the effort to transform the downtown core included diversifying its real estate by adding residential developments, particularly high density condominiums. Several condominiums, a YMCA, and a hotel were built in the Eau Claire neighborhood, in an attempt to convert the area into a higher-end residential enclave. Preservation efforts on downtown's historic buildings have included transforming a strip of old warehouses into loft condominiums. Over the next few years, Calgary's downtown real estate is expected to grow; eight high-rises are scheduled to be erected, including the Penny Lane Project, two massive office towers, almost a million square feet each.
The city has made concerted efforts to reduce urban sprawl in the suburbs. Calgary has continued to expand at a rapid rate with its residential development moving west, northwest, and south, even beyond major arteries. Between 1998 and 2002, Calgary built 10,000 new housing developments every year. Fringe growth has been curbed partially by the reclamation of land by the Tsuu T'ina Nation southwest of the city.
Residential zoning is not the only development responsible for urban sprawl; other developments, particularly in the retail commercial sector, have been erected to accommodate the growing population. New large-scale shopping complexes have included Deerfoot Meadows, West Hills Town Centre, and Signal Hill Shopping Centre. In addition, Chinook Mall has expanded allowing for 1.2 million extra square feet of retail space, complete with a multiplex cinema with an IMAX theatre. Calgary continues to annex land on a yearly basis to ensure an adequate housing for its newcomers. Much of this land is agricultural land threatening valuable agricultural commodities.
Other issues faced by the city include reducing its carbon footprint, made particularly high by urban sprawl and Calgarians' dependence on automobiles. Calgary's GoPlan is committed to reducing automobile dependency by improving public transportation, particularly through the expansion of the C-Train system. Calgary has also made efforts towards environmentally-friendly development through the planning of LEED certified developments. The LEED program is a rating system for new real estate developments based on promoting new urbanism concepts, including environmentally friendly building, high density real estate, and walkable communities. An example of a LEED standard neighborhood is Calgary's redevelopment of the Currie Barracks into the neighborhoods of Garrison Woods and Garrison Green. The two mixed-use communities feature attractive streetscapes, parks, and walkable streets, designed to reduce reliance on automobiles. In the past two decades, city council has also promoted the "greening" of Calgary through the development of urban parks, many of them along river valleys of the Bow and Elbow rivers. Calgary is now home to an extensive river path system, ideal for hiking, riding bicycles, and other activities that promote active living.
With Calgary's rapid growth and the corresponding strength of the real estate industry, the Calgary Real Estate Board is poised to take an increasingly important role within Calgary. With a membership of 5000 real estate brokers and agents in 250 firms, the Calgary Real Estate Board is now one of the largest real estate organizations in the country, representing the areas of Calgary, Sundre, High River, Banff and Canmore. The real estate industry has been prospering because of Calgary's real estate boom; however, real estate professionals also face new challenges. Given the staggering numbers of newcomers to the city in recent years, Calgary's real estate professionals find themselves on the front line of the city's welcoming committee and are challenged to find affordable homes for these newcomers, given the low vacancy rates (1.46% in 2007) and high real estate prices ($394,758 in 2007, up from $306,3900 the previous year).
The Calgary Real Estate Board provides assistance to REALTORS® by providing them up-to-date information on industry conditions, and ensuring high educational and licensing standards. In addition, through its charitable foundation the Calgary Real Estate Board aids buyers by contributing funds to the development affordable housing, like the Crestwood Affordable Housing Project, a government-charity cooperative project to construct a 60-unit housing complex for low-income Calgarians.References
Calgary Economic Development. “Real Estate.” www.calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com, 2008.
Calgary Real Estate Board. Retrieved June 18, 2008, from www.creb.com.
Calgary Real Estate Board Charitable Foundation. Retrieved June 18, 2008, from www.hearttohome.org.
City of Calgary. “2007 Census Results”, 2008.
Peach, Jack. The First Fifty Years: A Chronicle of Half a Century in the life of the Calgary Real Estate Board 1943 - 1993. The Calgary Real Estate Board.
Sandalack, Beverly A. and Andrei Nicolai. The Calgary Project: Urban Form/Urban Life. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2006.
Stenson, Fred. The Story of Calgary. Fifth House Publishers, 1994.