Some tenants are reportedly exploring A-class buildings in downtown Calgary as rental rates have softened and there are more options available to choose from. CREB®Now file photo

Developing story

Calgary still the place to be for new developments

Despite a dip in the economy, Calgary is still a sought-after destination for developers, say industry experts.

“There’s a western resiliency and an entrepreneurial spirit that [Calgary] rolls with it and looks for a brighter day in the future,” said Christopher Wein, president of Toronto’s Great Gulf Residential, which has submitted a development application to the City to develop a two-tower condo development in the East Village at 304 Macleod Trail S.E. across from the Harry Hayes Building.

Low oil prices – which have remained close to $50 US a barrel for West Texas Intermediate since mid-January after topping the $100 mark for much of 2014 – are reflected in decreased sales across the city, but aren’t deterring Great Gulf, said Wein.

“We actually see it as an opportunity,” he said. “Our company has been in this business for 40 years, and obviously real estate and real estate development is cyclical. So you always go through cycles. But we think that often the best time to come into a market is during a downward cycle.

“It gives you opportunity to source good land. It also gives you opportunity to really take your time and assess the situation around development, permitting, approvals, community engagement, construction management, etc.
“We really see it as this great opportunity to come into the city then as the economy turns again and we’ll be very well positioned for the next high point of the economy.”

Great Gulf has applied for a development permit and is hoping to secure a building permit for its proposed East Village development by the fall or end of the year, followed by a sales launch.

GreatGulfcondo

“We think that the downtown, and specifically the East Village and eastern portions of downtown, have tremendous potential for growth, for modern living, for modern planning,” said Wein. “We love what East Village is doing with its cultural centres, employment centres, retail, residential, etc.”

Part of the Calgary Municipal Land Corp.’s (CMLC) East Village master plan, the project is just one of several new residential developments proposed or current taking place in and around the area. Once a blight on the city’s landscape, East village is expected to start welcoming its first new residents this month with the completion of condo project FIRST, followed by Fram + Slokker in August.

CMLC expects the population to increase from 2,705 in 2014 to 11,000 in 2027.

“This is a project that’s come a long, long, long way,” said CMLC president and CEO Michael Brown. “I’m very excited for this year. This is what it’s all about. This is why the shareholders started this project; it was all about getting new residents into our community.”

As CMLC’s involvement in East Village comes to an end, the corporation is reportedly seeking new opportunities, with International Avenue and the West Village being mentioned as possibilities.

West Village – located at the west end of the downtown anchored by Mewata Armoury – has also been mentioned as a possible location for a new arena project, which would not only house the Calgary Flames hockey team but include a football stadium and amateur sports fieldhouse as well.

Flames’ president and CEO Ken King has called the nostalgic Saddledome “embarrassing,” stating “there’s absolutely no reason we should watch a new building go up in Edmonton and we’ve got to play in a 1980s building here.”

The project would come with a reported $400-million price tag. Mayor Naheed Nenshi has shot down suggestions the City would help fund the new arena, saying he doesn’t believe in public funds going after private money.

The downtown isn’t the only place Calgary is seeing continued development growth. In the northeast, Deerfoot Mall, prototypical mall of the 1980s, is undergoing a transformation into Deerfoot City, a “master-planned, regional urban centre” that will include a pedestrian-friendly network of outdoor streets and plazas, shops and more by Shape Properties out of Vancouver.

“Things are going really well. One of the keys to the success of Deerfoot City will be its ability to draw from not just the local population, but also the regional trade area and commuter drive-by traffic,” said Darren Kwiatkowski, executive vice-president of Shape Properties. “Our lease deals to date have already been able to add new tenants that specifically appeal to these three customer categories.”

Kwiatkowski singled out outdoor mecca Cabela’s, set to open on the site later this year, and GoodLife Fitness. Deerfoot City has a completion date of fall 2017.

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