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Old August 9th, 2008, 06:28 AM   #1
Taller, Better
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Is Calgary suffering a 'failure of heart'?

From today's Globe and Mail. Link:

Is Calgary suffering a 'failure of heart'?


From Friday's Globe and Mail

August 8, 2008 at 7:56 AM EDT

CALGARY — Calgary may rank only 66th on the recently released 2008 Mercer List of the world's 143 most expensive cities, but it has soared 26 spots in the past year and is closing in on Vancouver in the race to be Canada's second-priciest domicile behind Toronto.

This is not good news. While Vancouverites always seem comfortable paying for their own sense of being Eden and Torontonians assume only fools would be incapable of grasping the cost of class, the same cannot be said for Calgarians. Yes, summer is wonderful, but while winter is not terribly harsh, it is long (the leaves will be gone in a mere 60 days), the roads are clogged and we wedge nervously into commuter trains that are either too packed or sparse for physical and psychological comfort.

The streets may be paved with gold for some; for others, they are merely lining the pockets of civic and private parking authorities in this, Canada's most expensive city in which to drive. Office rent is the country's highest and while jobs are plentiful and wages high, real incomes are nowhere near as competitive as they were 10 years ago. Efforts by Christian charities such as the Mustard Seed and Inn From the Cold to establish shelter and housing for the homeless have been rebuffed as inappropriate for a downtown that prefers gentrification. In a city where labour is in great demand, none of these are helpful trends; Saskatchewan offers better real incomes.

Little wonder the city is cranky. Honking and angry fingers are more frequent, happy howdies fewer. Police not only battle road rage, they recently had to deal with "golf rage" after a man was allegedly beaten following an errant shot.

This is a city increasingly in need of, yes, a really good transportation system, but more than anything it needs calm; happy and inspirational spaces and places that ease and enliven the soul and allow for a step sideways off the treadmill that we all know will hit like a hurricane again after Labour Day. Its downtown core, to which city planners are urgently trying to direct new homeowners, contains an imbalance between commercial and cultural influences.

Calgary is at risk of what is described by Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, in his book Municipal Mind: Manifestos for the Creative City, as a "failure of heart" or becoming merely "a place of business, or indentured servitude." It's not likely that Calgary could lose its soul, although it is quite possible it could sell it by mistake. One would expect that if nothing else, its long-standing sense of chauvinism is bristling in response to the very idea that the self-styled "heart of the New West" would beat in anything other than a passionate and prideful fashion.

A city this well-resourced should be able to respond to even these nuanced challenges by releasing its creative minds to give liberty to, as Mr. Di Cicco calls it, "the desire of the citizen for elements one no longer dares to ask for - conviviality, joy, delight in wonder, the shared forum of imagining and play, of unreserved laughter and serenity ... all the playful and ecstatic registers that justify city life." Everywhere there is talk of cultural renovation and innovation, whether it is any of the many successful theatre companies creating or building new homes, completion of the Stampede grounds expansion, a new arena for the Calgary Flames, development of the East Village, a massively redesigned arts centre and district, new condo towers and even an imposing Opera Centre that would replace aging and oh-so-20th-century structures such as the Jubilee Auditorium as the home for things of great beauty; of things that can make people swoon.

All great stuff, but whether Calgary succeeds in using its commercial muscle for cultural flourishing will depend on how fully it can embrace the truth that gentrification is not the answer. It is the spirit of values such as empathy and mercy that fuels the construction of these and other dreams; that stained glass is better than tinted glass and preventing a city with depth of soul from transforming into just a city with lots of stuff depends on understanding that creativity is the path to civic grace.

That is a big ask, perhaps too much. We shall see. In the meantime, we might have to settle for a few more cars on the C-train.
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Old August 10th, 2008, 01:27 AM   #2
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lol, Globe & Mail.
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Old August 17th, 2008, 08:36 PM   #3
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In regards to affordable housing, the city/province are failing!!!
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Old November 9th, 2008, 10:27 AM   #4
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Public transit has to be the biggest failure I've seen come out of any government anywhere in the world.

As for "a new arena for the Calgary Flames".. NO. That's one of the few (if any) buildings that gives Calgary character. Revamp the interior all you want, but everybody loves the Saddledome.
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