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An Invitation to Believe: Charrette promises new vision, new process

Jun 16, 2011

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.

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COMMENTS POLICY: We invite questions and suggestions related to the post above. The online rules are the same as they'd be if we were meeting in person. We'll respect one another and keep on topic. And we'll work together to create a compelling vision and implementation strategy for Mission Road.

If you have general comments or suggestions, you can also submit them directly by going to our CONTACT US page.


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    This is the moment we’ve all been planning towards.

    Beginning Wednesday, June 15, 2011, citizens, landowners, and City staff sat down with an international consulting team to translate years worth of lessons learned into a plan for healthy growth along Mission Road. Just as important, they used this week-long planning workshop as a test run for how Calgary's residents, business people, and government might better go about charting the future of our neighbourhoods together.

    That’s why we’ve described this project as: Neighbours on a mission. In reality, we’re all neighbours. And we have to work together to get where we want to go. Read more here.