EV, the jewel

When Calgary’s urban designer Sonny Tomic took to the stage at Centre City Congress 2012, he blew a cool jazz riff on a wind synthesizer – and gave a major shout-out to East Village in front of an audience of urban stakeholders in search of big ideas about city living.

Sonny Tomic is the long-time manager for Centre City planning & implementation, so he’s been part of the East Village story since chapter one. After showing us his inner hep cat, Tomic explained how cool urban design is born and how it evolves, and he described East Village as “the poster child of the new Calgary.” You could see the entire EV team blush at the compliment.“East Village has managed to create a new reality of what Calgary can be,” Tomic declared. “I hope I will retire here because you will have everything here; it's a jewel in the making.”

The newest oldest warmest coolest neighbourhood will be keeping a place warm for Mr. Tomic.

Rollin Stanley, the new general manager of planning for the City of Calgary, gave the keynote address for the event. He shared his views on what makes a vibrant city, and apparently, it's not parking lots or one-way streets.

“Parking isn't necessarily what you want in a city,” Stanley said. “Copenhagen has been on a 10-year plan to reduce downtown parking.” The city planning leader cautioned against losing that crucial sense of place when designing a vibrant core, citing Vancouver's “vertical new-urbanism” as a self-limiting vision. Instead, he suggested implementing a public incentive system to allow completion of future projects. Green buildings, buildings that embrace the public realm, and buildings that deliver a sense of place would all be candidates for completion incentives.

Turns out Calgary is doing a lot of things right. “The major complaint we have is that transit is too popular,” declared Mayor Nenshi in his welcoming address. Bruce Graham, President and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, informed us that not only is Calgary ranked as the world's fifth most liveable city, but that we have “moved from being a low-cost place for business to being a high value-added business economy.” Michael Green, Curator and Creative Producer for Calgary 2012, reminded us of how shocked we all were three years ago when Maclean’s Magazine declared Calgary to be the country’s most culturally engaged city. “How many Calgarians could believe that?” he asked. We sure believe it now.