As the newly appointed chief executive officer for Calgary’s Urban Development Institute (UDI) – the not-for-profit association “focused on the development of innovative, efficient and sustainable communities” — Guy Huntingford is one of those tasked with helping determining the future of our city. CREB®Now caught up with the former publisher of the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun to talk about where our city is headed.
CREB®Now>> What is UDI?
Huntingford>> It’s interesting. I asked around and people in the business know exactly what [the Urban Development Institute] is and those that aren’t in the industry wonder why it’s an institute and not an association. To answer your question UDI is a members based association for the development industry here in Calgary and the surrounding towns around Calgary.
CREB®Now>> What is the biggest issue that UDI is dealing with right now?
Huntingford>> There’s a new municipal development plan (MDP) that which came out of this project called Plan It Calgary, and the new MDP has what I would consider to be a completely new direction for development. Basically it’s the densification of Calgary and what I mean by that is densification not just in the core, but everywhere in Calgary. How do we make it more efficient rather than continuing to build out? Is there a way for the city to become more efficient by densification but at the same time keep choice for consumers?
CREB®Now>> What are the implications of the new MDP for UDI?
Huntingford>> It depends what game you’re in in the development business. If you’re in the business of building condos or highrises in the downtown core that’s probably good news. If you’re in the business of just building single-family homes on a greenfield development in the suburbs that’s not necessarily a bad thing but it’s obviously going to change how you look at your development and certainly how the intensification happens within the development itself. I think that’s the key because the new MDP calls for minimum intensification — properties per acre. And that certainly causes the development industry to certainly look differently at greenfield development.
CREB®Now>> With that in mind, where do you see things going for the development industry in the next 10 years?
Huntingford>> First of all, I think we’re going to have to be step for step with the city and where it’s going because we’ve all read in the papers recently that we’ve got infrastructure problems in the inner city. These are the types of things that are going to happen when you create densification, and it doesn’t matter where it is because the infrastructure in the ground. So we need to be step for step with the City to make sure that where we’re developing is ready for that development – certainly in existing areas. In new areas we need to make sure that we’re as efficient as we possibly can with the type of developments and the type of buildings that go there. The last 20 years of building and the way that Calgary evolved, which was perfect for the time, is going to change over the next 10 years and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think that’s a good thing.
CREB®Now>> If you could change one thing about Calgary, what would it be?
Huntingford>> The one thing I think I would change is the speed for development approvals. I think that needs to be streamlined. I think that as the city continues to grow — and there’s no doubt in my mind anyway that Calgary will continue to accelerate in terms of inward migration – so we need to have the ability to react to that and as much City Hall is trying to fix some of the red tape, I think that really has to accelerate. It’s just way too slow.
CREB®Now>> What’s one essential element of a good community?
Huntingford>> I think a good community has the facilities that those living in it want within easy distance — within the community itself. People want to be able to go to the park, they want to be able to go to the drycleaners and they want to go be able to potentially work in that community. The basics for an easy lifestyle — that’s what makes a good community.
CREB®Now>> What is your favourite way to spend a day off in or around the city?
Huntingford>> That’s easy — on my bike on the bike trails. That is absolutely the best part of our city.
CREB®Now>> What’s your favourite room in your home and why?
Huntingford>> I would say my main room in my basement because it has all my workout gear in it.
CREB®Now>> If you could recommend one activity in Calgary to someone visiting for the first time, what would it be?
Huntingford>> I would tell them to, if they can, go to all the major attractions. We do have an amazing amount of things to do and I think you just need to figure out how much time you want to spend at each one. Go out to Canada Olympic Park, go to the Zoo, go to Heritage Park, go to Spruce Meadows, but you need to be disciplined or you’ll just end up spending all your time downtown – not that there’s anything wrong with that.
CREB®Now>> What would you say is Calgary’s biggest strength as a city?
Huntingford>> Maybe this is a bit of a cliché, but the city works. It’s easy to get around, it’s clean and it’s friendly for its citizens. What I mean by that is you don’t spend hours and hours commuting like you do in other cities. Having lived in Toronto, you spend half your life thinking about how long is it going to take to get to work or to get home. I don’t think [Calgary] is there yet and I hope we don’t get there for a long time.