By the end of the day on Thursday, those attending special topic sessions of the Mission Road charrette were zeroing in on what has become the project’s biggest challenge: Getting veterans of past planning wars to believe that outcomes will be different this time.
The scene-setter for the day was the morning session led by retail analyst Tom Leung, president of Global Retail Strategies. Intelligently planned and managed, said Leung, the Mission Road section of Calgary can become a “Mission Node” for “urban cool” mixed use. (See a pdf of Leung’s presentation, a video interview and notes from all the day’s sessions under the DOCUMENTS section tab. We’ll post Friday’s session notes in the same place.)
“If we do this right,” said Leung, the right combination of the right commercial offerings at the right scale can “it will serve as the spark to reinvigorate the whole node.”
The potential of retail helping to energize both commercial and residential redevelopment in the district was a theme that carried through the other two meetings during the day. The key will be to integrate an ambitious vision with pragmatism. “The numbers have to work,” said Leung.
And the process has to produce the opportunities it advertises.
That sentiment was clear in the final meeting of the day. Property owners, including several who controlled large blocks of real estate that could be pivotal in charrette plans, contributed their thoughts. Their bottom line: If you want us to take a leap of faith in a new plan and a new process, we need to believe they’ll work.
Community association members, business people and others who’ve participated in meetings so far echo that feeling. Other visioning and planning processes in other years raised expectations that were never quite realized — a familiar dilemma in complicated land use policy throughout North America. Some veterans of multiple efforts call it “vision fatigue.” Everybody yearns for processes that produce results that carry through to implementation and regulatory enforcement.
It’s encouraging that key property owners, who are frank about their suspicions, are still willing to invest their time in this new effort. Leaders of the Mission Road initiative promise a pay-off for that faith leap.
Today, two more meetings — primarily with City policy-makers and permitting officials — will complete the listening phase of the charrette. By the weekend, the project team will be offering their first drawings of ideas for community critiques. For times and places, go to the SCHEDULE + DIRECTIONS tab in the tool bar above.
If you can’t attend in person, remember to check back here on the website regularly, making sure to leave your ideas and comments. And tell your friends.