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February 01, 2010

Challenging 2010 ahead for UDI

Even if the recession is seemingly over, challenges continue to face Calgary’s developers in 2010

Pepper Rodriguez

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The global economic recession had brought with it challenges in the last two years, and although the economy seems back on track, new challenges are never really far behind for the new residential and multi-family construction and development industry, especially in a city as vibrant as Calgary.

The Urban Development Institute – Calgary has its work cut out again for 2010, not the least of which is its continuing efforts to work with the local government in implementing its controversial Plan It growth development model.

“We continue to work with the city to iron out wrinkles in implementing their Plan It strategy,” UDI Executive Director Michael Flynn says. “We have an implementation team that is helping the city figure out how to implement some of the policies coming out of Plan It.”

Plan It Calgary is the integrated new Municipal Development Plan and Calgary Transportation Plan setting out a long-term direction for sustainable growth to accommodate the 1.3 million additional people expected to make Calgary their home in the next six decades.

UDI says it is the “most important piece of legislation governing the Development Industry” and Flynn sees that a close working relationship between developers and the local government is the key in ensuring balanced growth.

“We have excellent ties with the city, and it is this symbiotic relationship – one cannot really do without the other - that would be key in ensuring responsible growth,” he says. “We’re working with the city to identify areas of concern, including looking harder at policies for densification – is the city really mature enough to handle more multi-family developments? – and address transportation needs by identifying areas where new road infrastructure might be needed and coming up with the best way to move people around.”

UDI’s urban densification committee is working together with local governing bodies and other stakeholders to valuate and review the values, policies and implementation process related to planning established urban areas.

Another main issue is to figure out the real cost for the city to grow. “We need to educate the city in terms of how much it really takes to grow, how much it costs to build a new community against how much it is to densify an existing ones with new multi-family developments,” he adds.

Flynn points out that the current five-year standard development agreement with the city expires at the end of 2010, and this will be one of the major issues they also have to deal with this year. “We’re still negotiating to see how long the next agreement will be.”

But ties between UDI and the city are strong, and the recent UDI Christmas party that invited City of Calgary aldermen, planning division officials and other key members of local government was a big success. “We hold our annual Christmas party to cement ties with our friends in the City and municipal governments, it is a way for us to say ‘thanks’.”

UDI’s role in representing the development industry in sustainable growth is a valuable tool for the local government. “We give our advice to the city freely and provide valuable feedback from a major stakeholder group to provide a reliable guide to Calgary’s further growth,” Flynn says.

UDI has 185 member companies the vast majority of which are involved in new residential and multi-family construction in the city. 

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