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Design wars: It's Edmonton vs. Calgary for the architectural cup

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  • Design wars: It's Edmonton vs. Calgary for the architectural cup

    Design wars: It's Edmonton vs. Calgary for the architectural cup
    Oh yeah? I see you your Alberta Museum, and raise you the Bell Music Centre!
    The battle of Alberta goes way beyond hockey and football.
    In fact, it started back in 1905 with the inception of the province when the two cities vied for being Alberta's capital city. Soon after, in 1908, they again went head-to-head to see who would get the province's first university.
    In both cases, Calgary lost!
    Yes. We are an us vs. them province. And of late, signature buildings and architectural design are another way our two cities are battling it out.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgar...sign-1.3782755
    Opinion piece from CBC Calgary therefore it's obviously from Calgary's perspective, but definitely highlights the discrepancy between the two cities in terms of design.

  • #2
    I don't find the Downtowns similar enough to even compare.

    Design? As in aesthetics?

    How about "There are zero users of The Bow after 5 P.M.?"







    (And no, again and again and again, THE BATTLE OF ALBERTA STARTED WITH THE CREE AND THE BLACKFOOT.

    Then the Edmonton NWC versus the Calgary/American whiskey traders.

    Then the free-enterprise Edmonton HBC hub versus the government subsidised NWMP.

    Then the CPR which Sir Sandford Flemming himself said should go through Edmonton.

    I'll say it's from Calgary's perspective, the writer hasn't even heard of Edmonton. "history starts when we want it to." )

    /rant
    Let's make Edmonton better.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Perspective View Post
      Design wars: It's Edmonton vs. Calgary for the architectural cup
      Oh yeah? I see you your Alberta Museum, and raise you the Bell Music Centre!
      The battle of Alberta goes way beyond hockey and football.
      In fact, it started back in 1905 with the inception of the province when the two cities vied for being Alberta's capital city. Soon after, in 1908, they again went head-to-head to see who would get the province's first university.
      In both cases, Calgary lost!
      Yes. We are an us vs. them province. And of late, signature buildings and architectural design are another way our two cities are battling it out.

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgar...sign-1.3782755
      Opinion piece from CBC Calgary therefore it's obviously from Calgary's perspective, but definitely highlights the discrepancy between the two cities in terms of design.
      Interesting that they (actually just the article's author Mr. White and his editor) started this war. (In good fun.)




      He also said: " But as we mature as urban centres that's changing, and we are designing our way to a better future.".

      Considering cities can survive for centuries and its people as always live with different intentions, do they ever "mature" in the human sense of the word, or do they just age, grow and fluctuate?

      Moreover, has anything really changed or "matured"? If you look at the early schools (a few of which still survive) and the Legislature, university buildings, long-lost libraries (ours built with Carnegie's gift), big old ornate office buildings of a hundred years ago, I'd say some people in our cities have always had a long-term, multi-generational, "mature city" view towards the architecture they created. Then the next "gen" tears them down.

      Also calling it a "discrepancy" is an interesting choice of words, Perspective.

      Both buildings in this photo faced the wrecking ball. How do such buildings not reflect a mature view of architecture? The immaturity I'd say is in the destruction of such architecture by the next generation of architects and decision makers.

      Last edited by KC; 02-10-2016, 08:10 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Hard to compare. Our downtown has a nightlife but their skyline is build of skyscrapers worth billions. They win on the architectural side of things and it's okay.

        We school them in plenty of ways not to care.
        There was no need to change that plaque. We are the City of Champions.

        Comment


        • #5
          Both have positives and negatives. While I live in Edmonton and call it home, I'm from BC. I considered both when moving here. Now that I've lived in Edmonton for a while and enjoy it, there are definitely things that I wish Edmonton had relative to Calgary. The mall in downtown Calgary blows ECC out of the water and that probably isn't going to change any time soon. I would argue the architecture is currently nicer in Calgary too, but only due to the fact that they have had a lot more recent development than Edmonton has. Modern construction allows for some cool designs. I think Edmonton will catch up in the next 15 years as we seem to have more demand for new construction in the core than Calgary does at this point. I mean, look at the number of parking lots that we still have compared to Calgary. Enough said. We'll get there, but we're not there yet. Katz has started the movement downtown and he and others will continue that legacy in the future.

          There isn't anything wrong with that; it is what it is. I dislike comparisons between cities in terms of one being better than the other. NYC blows Calgary and Edmonton out of the water from an architecture standpoint and that will never change in our lifetime. It is what it is.

          Comment


          • #6
            True about the surface parking lots. Funny though, "opportunity" wasn't really the first word we associated with them before Mandel.

            Also in the older debates, we used to worry that we'd put all this effort into Downtown Edmonton that it would wind up feeling like Downtown Calgary, while some of us hoped we'd look farther afield. Not something I need to think about much anymore, thankfully.

            Specifically on architecture though, I get the feeling the article's focus is on exterior appearance of a few gems alone, and not the function or interaction of buildings, and the round-the-clock health of the neighbourhood which are also part of "design" and far more important. Considering appearance alone, I couldn't really comment.
            Let's make Edmonton better.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Moodib View Post
              I think Edmonton will catch up in the next 15 years as we seem to have more demand for new construction in the core than Calgary does at this point. I mean, look at the number of parking lots that we still have compared to Calgary. Enough said. We'll get there, but we're not there yet. Katz has started the movement downtown and he and others will continue that legacy in the future.
              What frustrates me most with Edmonton's downtown is every time there is a step forward, there seem to have been a couple of steps back. During my time in the core, when a new building went up, an old one would come down for a lot. The Arena district is great, but I fear it just means some class B buildings will become more uneconomic as people upgrade into that space, especially with the prolonged recession we seem to be moving into. It was disappointing to read recently that the residential population actually declined, given all the new condo buildings, its counter intuitive, but a sign again that each new building isn't replacing the ones that are declining / ageing. Why hasn't 104 street, and 109 street, which were residential / retail successes, replicated on 108, and 107, and 106 and..., plus the quarters? I harp on about it too much perhaps, but Edmonton keeps growing very fast in suburban locations, especially the SW. Unless policies change to make that type of "high-end" lifestyle more expensive (a step Calgary has taken by forcing suburban development into affordable areas first), I fear nothing much will change in the next 15 years downtown. All the good wishes in the world won't make downtown happen, when the bulk of infrastructure money continues to flow into new and high end suburban areas (schools, rec centers, ring roads, outlet stores, etc.). Hopefully the new LRT will help a bit, but its more at the moment about keeping downtown alive than really giving it the sort of huge boost it deserves to lever off the arena district. Decisions to turn down new bars / entertainment make me think the City doesn't really want downtown to fulfill its promise / potential, which is sad, its not open for business.

              Calgary faces a different "nightmare" now, with vacancies in office buildings up to 25%, lots of ghost buildings (although they look pretty - e.g. the new Manulife built one by the Court house). But they have had a lot of success at building life in the downtown in the last decade thanks to residential condo boom (although that's flipping into oversupply, so it may be on its last legs, albeit demographics will help as boomers age), in part from those stronger urban planning policies. Stephens Avenue has no real equivalent in Edmonton (I thought the LRT was an opportunity to try and build something like that, Rice Howard is not comparable), East Village has filled in (while Quarters remains empty), beautification of underpasses to the belt line is progressing well, the beltline itself full of new condos / ones under construction where people bike into the core on the new bike paths, the area around Prince's Island is superb (aside from Eau Claire market which needed pulling down a couple of decades ago) with residential on the river that approaches Coal Harbor in Vancouver (the concorde is finally underway again), even surface parking lots landscaping as required by the City is in a different league to what COE lets fester in its core. Lots to learn from and apply in Edmonton, I don't understand why Iveson hasn't built the mandate / team / support on Council, to do that, he used to blog about stuff like that, now he is all about defending speed cameras
              Last edited by moahunter; 05-10-2016, 07:36 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by moahunter View Post
                Originally posted by Moodib View Post
                I think Edmonton will catch up in the next 15 years as we seem to have more demand for new construction in the core than Calgary does at this point. I mean, look at the number of parking lots that we still have compared to Calgary. Enough said. We'll get there, but we're not there yet. Katz has started the movement downtown and he and others will continue that legacy in the future.
                What frustrates me most with Edmonton's downtown is every time there is a step forward, there seem to have been a couple of steps back. During my time in the core, when a new building went up, an old one would come down for a lot. The Arena district is great, but I fear it just means some class B buildings will become more uneconomic as people upgrade into that space, especially with the prolonged recession we seem to be moving into. It was disappointing to read recently that the residential population actually declined, given all the new condo buildings, its counter intuitive, but a sign again that each new building isn't replacing the ones that are declining / ageing. Why hasn't 104 street, and 109 street, which were residential / retail successes, replicated on 108, and 107, and 106 and..., plus the quarters? I harp on about it too much perhaps, but Edmonton keeps growing very fast in suburban locations, especially the SW. Unless policies change to make that type of "high-end" lifestyle more expensive (a step Calgary has taken by forcing suburban development into affordable areas first), I fear nothing much will change in the next 15 years downtown. All the good wishes in the world won't make downtown happen, when the bulk of infrastructure money continues to flow into new and high end suburban areas (schools, rec centers, ring roads, outlet stores, etc.). Hopefully the new LRT will help a bit, but its more at the moment about keeping downtown alive than really giving it the sort of huge boost it deserves to lever off the arena district. Decisions to turn down new bars / entertainment make me think the City doesn't really want downtown to fulfill its promise / potential, which is sad, its not open for business.

                Calgary faces a different "nightmare" now, with vacancies in office buildings up to 25%, lots of ghost buildings (although they look pretty - e.g. the new Manulife built one by the Court house). But they have had a lot of success at building life in the downtown in the last decade thanks to residential condo boom (although that's flipping into oversupply, so it may be on its last legs, albeit demographics will help as boomers age), in part from those stronger urban planning policies. Stephens Avenue has no real equivalent in Edmonton (I thought the LRT was an opportunity to try and build something like that, Rice Howard is not comparable), East Village has filled in (while Quarters remains empty), beautification of underpasses to the belt line is progressing well, the beltline itself full of new condos / ones under construction where people bike into the core on the new bike paths, the area around Prince's Island is superb (aside from Eau Claire market which needed pulling down a couple of decades ago) with residential on the river that approaches Coal Harbor in Vancouver (the concorde is finally underway again), even surface parking lots landscaping as required by the City is in a different league to what COE lets fester in its core. Lots to learn from and apply in Edmonton, I don't understand why Iveson hasn't built the mandate / team / support on Council, to do that, he used to blog about stuff like that, now he is all about defending speed cameras
                Lots of good points here. The Iveson thing stuck out to me, though. So much changes when you become a prominent figure. I used to absolutely love Stephen Harper's discourse on Foreign Affairs when I was doing my undergrad before he was PM. He was a brilliant guy that had some great ideas. I don't consider myself a conservative at all, but at the time, I definitely agree with a lot of what he wrote. Those points of view changed a lot once he entered office. I'm not sure if realities change for people when they see how things really are or if they become defeated or what it is, but I think you often notice leaders present themselves differently when they are on the outside looking in.

                It will be interesting to see which of the proposed residential projects move forward now. I was really hoping for Healy to be a success until they canceled it altogether. Or put it on indefinite hold at least. Perhaps, Regency's new building on 114th will be good, but I suspect it is still years away as I don't even think they have started sales on it yet. The head of that company has said what hurts Edmonton is the slow approval pace relative to other cities, especially when it comes to big projects. Smaller projects seem to go fine, but when it is something that is outside of policy/zoning, it gets held up. Edmonton needs to take a look at these policies and do a massive overhaul to spur development.

                Comment


                • #9
                  ^we see that with Trudeau now as well, his government is being called "Harperesque", but that's simply because, certain policies work, even if they are easy to criticize. The announcement of the carbon tax while ministers were meeting, was straight out of the Harper playbook (what he did on health with the provinces, to much abuse at the time, but it worked). I think a mayor can make a real difference though, and change the direction of a city, I have seen that a few times in my life. Its something Nenshi has been able to do (albeit he had a better base to build on). Its much "easier" to not fight the battles though (and they do need to be fought if you want to make real change, like Nenshi v Shane Homes), its much easier to fight easy battles and let things meander on the way they always have. Then you get the sort of mediocre decision making that leads to the poorly designed safety rails on high level bridge, failures on bike paths that weren't built properly, accelerating sprawl with disappointing infill results, etc. I thought Iveson was that type of change leader, but for whatever reasons - COE waits for that still. Maybe its just not what most people want? That's what I fear most, as that will lead to endless downtown stagnation, but at least, a very nice suburban city.
                  Last edited by moahunter; 05-10-2016, 09:29 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Moodib View Post
                    Originally posted by moahunter View Post
                    Originally posted by Moodib View Post
                    I think Edmonton will catch up in the next 15 years as we seem to have more demand for new construction in the core than Calgary does at this point. I mean, look at the number of parking lots that we still have compared to Calgary. Enough said. We'll get there, but we're not there yet. Katz has started the movement downtown and he and others will continue that legacy in the future.
                    What frustrates me most with Edmonton's downtown is every time there is a step forward, there seem to have been a couple of steps back. During my time in the core, when a new building went up, an old one would come down for a lot. The Arena district is great, but I fear it just means some class B buildings will become more uneconomic as people upgrade into that space, especially with the prolonged recession we seem to be moving into. It was disappointing to read recently that the residential population actually declined, given all the new condo buildings, its counter intuitive, but a sign again that each new building isn't replacing the ones that are declining / ageing. Why hasn't 104 street, and 109 street, which were residential / retail successes, replicated on 108, and 107, and 106 and..., plus the quarters? I harp on about it too much perhaps, but Edmonton keeps growing very fast in suburban locations, especially the SW. Unless policies change to make that type of "high-end" lifestyle more expensive (a step Calgary has taken by forcing suburban development into affordable areas first), I fear nothing much will change in the next 15 years downtown. All the good wishes in the world won't make downtown happen, when the bulk of infrastructure money continues to flow into new and high end suburban areas (schools, rec centers, ring roads, outlet stores, etc.). Hopefully the new LRT will help a bit, but its more at the moment about keeping downtown alive than really giving it the sort of huge boost it deserves to lever off the arena district. Decisions to turn down new bars / entertainment make me think the City doesn't really want downtown to fulfill its promise / potential, which is sad, its not open for business.

                    Calgary faces a different "nightmare" now, with vacancies in office buildings up to 25%, lots of ghost buildings (although they look pretty - e.g. the new Manulife built one by the Court house). But they have had a lot of success at building life in the downtown in the last decade thanks to residential condo boom (although that's flipping into oversupply, so it may be on its last legs, albeit demographics will help as boomers age), in part from those stronger urban planning policies. Stephens Avenue has no real equivalent in Edmonton (I thought the LRT was an opportunity to try and build something like that, Rice Howard is not comparable), East Village has filled in (while Quarters remains empty), beautification of underpasses to the belt line is progressing well, the beltline itself full of new condos / ones under construction where people bike into the core on the new bike paths, the area around Prince's Island is superb (aside from Eau Claire market which needed pulling down a couple of decades ago) with residential on the river that approaches Coal Harbor in Vancouver (the concorde is finally underway again), even surface parking lots landscaping as required by the City is in a different league to what COE lets fester in its core. Lots to learn from and apply in Edmonton, I don't understand why Iveson hasn't built the mandate / team / support on Council, to do that, he used to blog about stuff like that, now he is all about defending speed cameras
                    Lots of good points here. The Iveson thing stuck out to me, though. So much changes when you become a prominent figure. I used to absolutely love Stephen Harper's discourse on Foreign Affairs when I was doing my undergrad before he was PM. He was a brilliant guy that had some great ideas. I don't consider myself a conservative at all, but at the time, I definitely agree with a lot of what he wrote. Those points of view changed a lot once he entered office. I'm not sure if realities change for people when they see how things really are or if they become defeated or what it is, but I think you often notice leaders present themselves differently when they are on the outside looking in.

                    It will be interesting to see which of the proposed residential projects move forward now. I was really hoping for Healy to be a success until they canceled it altogether. Or put it on indefinite hold at least. Perhaps, Regency's new building on 114th will be good, but I suspect it is still years away as I don't even think they have started sales on it yet. The head of that company has said what hurts Edmonton is the slow approval pace relative to other cities, especially when it comes to big projects. Smaller projects seem to go fine, but when it is something that is outside of policy/zoning, it gets held up. Edmonton needs to take a look at these policies and do a massive overhaul to spur development.
                    Calgary's situation isn't a nightmare. It's just a temporary issue and low interest rates will provide an incredible buffer while leasing adjusts with the short-term and near-end-of-term leaseholders upgrading soonest. Remember how in the 1980s they were called "See-Through-Towers". Many of them were unfinished and that's really problematic. That's not the case today is it? It's just an inevitable boom time legacy of temporary oversupply. Any losers in the end knew full well the risks and so did the banks this time around. No surprise, therefore no nightmare.

                    Moreover the 2009 dip woke up people to the risks and so builders would naturally have showed a bit more restraint. Id' say all is quite well as a result. Calgary's 25% vacancy rate will adjust quickly and people will upgrade for free years rent, etc. This musical chairs routine will naturally will leave some building owners left standing with their un-lease-able space. Super cheap long term lease space for some groups like charities, churches, various ventures, etc. but possible future tear downs if the economy doesn't turn around.





                    The beauty of this is that the owners have to keep paying their taxes. They built and they therefore took the risks. As an owner of some commercial space I know that as well as anyone. In fact, the Calgary situation isn't a "nightmare", it's an opportunity for those that are smarter with their money.



                    Varcoe: Hunting for a solution to Calgary's glut of downtown office space

                    CHRIS VARCOE, CALGARY HERALD
                    More from Chris Varcoe, Calgary Herald
                    Published on: May 21, 2016 | Last Updated: May 21, 2016


                    During the past three decades, the dazzling buildings that dominate the city’s skyline have come to symbolize Calgary’s growing economic might. Since 1983, the downtown core added 25 office buildings and doubled in size.

                    Today, however, the economic situation has reversed.
                    ...

                    Here are the facts.

                    By the end of March, vacancy levels in the city’s downtown core climbed to 20.2 per cent, rivalling the dismal downturn of the early 1980s, according to CBRE.

                    With some companies expected to lay off more staff this year, the real estate firm anticipates the vacancy rate “may reach a level never seen before in Calgary’s downtown market,” it stated in a first-quarter report on the city.

                    Part of the problem today lies in sublease space — making up 43 per cent of total vacancies — as companies locked into leases strive to find someone else willing to snap up their empty floors, usually at steep discounts.

                    Compounding the issue is another 3.5 million square feet of space coming on to the market in the next two years, according to Calgary Economic Development.
                    ...


                    “And then frankly in some cases, should we blow up the buildings? We have had people in the development community say we’re not over-built, we are under-demolished.”
                    ...

                    “The only thing I seek solace in is we’ve tracked the last four oil-based recessions and in every case, Calgary comes roaring back,” he says. “We’re just keeping our head down, working hard and waiting for the day it does come back.”
                    http://calgaryherald.com/business/co..._lsa=3042-0838
                    Last edited by KC; 05-10-2016, 09:37 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      There is more to Calgary's woes than just the 'advertised vacancy rate'. Calgary's problem right now is all the sub leasing that is going on. I have a number of friends that work in DT Calgary and most of them confirm that half or more than half of their leased space is empty. Companies are renting out the said space at lower rates than the building themselves, which is increasing the glut of office space. That is why there is a bit of a "nightmare" and why some think that the vacancy rate won't adjust itself. Most of these said leases aren't expiring any time soon and the space isn't B or C space like it is in Edmonton. I don't envy Calgary in that regard and as far as office space goes, Edmonton is looking much healthier than Calgary.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Moodib View Post
                        There is more to Calgary's woes than just the 'advertised vacancy rate'. Calgary's problem right now is all the sub leasing that is going on. I have a number of friends that work in DT Calgary and most of them confirm that half or more than half of their leased space is empty. Companies are renting out the said space at lower rates than the building themselves, which is increasing the glut of office space. That is why there is a bit of a "nightmare" and why some think that the vacancy rate won't adjust itself. Most of these said leases aren't expiring any time soon and the space isn't B or C space like it is in Edmonton. I don't envy Calgary in that regard and as far as office space goes, Edmonton is looking much healthier than Calgary.
                        Yes that article above discusses that. Still leases are leases. Bankrupt companies will break them and space will be freed up. Sub-leasing just slows the inevitable.


                        TERM SHEET
                        Buffett's annual letter: What you can learn from my real estate investments

                        In an exclusive excerpt from his upcoming shareholder letter, Warren Buffett looks back at a pair of real estate purchases and the lessons they offer for equity investors.


                        In 1993, I made another small investment. Larry Silverstein, Salomon’s landlord when I was the company’s CEO, told me about a New York retail property adjacent to New York University that the Resolution Trust Corp. was selling. Again, a bubble had popped — this one involving commercial real estate — and the RTC had been created to dispose of the assets of failed savings institutions whose optimistic lending practices had fueled the folly.

                        Here, too, the analysis was simple. ..."

                        The property’s location was also superb: NYU wasn’t going anywhere.
                        ...

                        I tell these tales to illustrate certain fundamentals of investing:...

                        You don’t need to be an expert in order to achieve satisfactory investment returns. But if you aren’t, you must ...


                        http://fortune.com/2014/02/24/buffet...e-investments/

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          ^Even if oil went to $100 tomorrow it would probably be a decade for all that space to fill up. Companies have "lean sized", they aren't going to upsize in a hurry, and a bunch of start up companies aren't going to magically decide to relocate to Calgary because there is cheap lease space. Its an ugly, ugly situation, empty buildings is not good, bad for all the REITs and pensions that own them as well (I'm thinking Manulife deeply regret their swanky new tower, 707fifth, which is very pretty, but I think likely, will be mostly empty).





                          I like the way the cooling tower is hidden behind glass (seems a trend with a lot of new towers, which is neat). That mid size tower "might" have been Manulife 2, if the arena district hadn't gone (I think, not sure though).
                          Last edited by moahunter; 05-10-2016, 10:22 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Had to check three times which thread I was reading here.

                            Yes, yes, poor Calgary wants a handout again, because collectively they didn't realise oil could ever crash.


                            So, design?
                            Let's make Edmonton better.

                            Comment

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