It has been over a decade since Naheed Nenshi was elected and his ideological agenda with the support of most of council has taken a terrible toll on Calgary’s downtown. Grand plans, massive spending and slush funds for CED have led to a city center which boasted a 30 percent commercial vacancy rate even before the COVID-19 lockdown hit. Office vacancy is now likely closer to 50 percent today.
While the price of oil and the impacts of the pandemic may be beyond the control of Calgary’s city council, the management of traffic in the city core is well within the control of the Mayor and council. Empty parking lots brag some of the highest parking rates in North America thanks to a parking supply oligopoly which is essentially controlled by the city parking authority. City subsidized condo units which bragged about their lack of parking spaces remain unsold while street parking has vanished due to a constant proliferation of bicycle tracks which sit unused for the better part of the year.
Nenshi and his fellow ideologues on council feel that if they can make the use of personal vehicles as inconvenient and expensive as possible, that Calgarian drivers will choose to stop driving and walk/bike or take the bus to work. What happened instead has been an exodus from Calgary’s downtown as residents and businesses relocate either out of the city or at least to suburban development areas such as Quarry Park in order to escape the expensive and awkward to navigate city core.
The few businesses that remain in downtown Calgary are hanging by a thread. Having lost the downtown office and residential crowds, they now rely on people driving out to visit them specifically. Chinatown has many specialty restaurants and shops which draw customers from all over the city. It is one of the few remaining commercial hubs in downtown Calgary which are still somewhat thriving.
Nenshi and council now have a plan to turn 3rd Avenue into a ridiculous and unnecessary bicycle/pedestrian route and to ban cars. This avenue is the lifeline of Calgary’s Chinatown as it runs right through it. If the fools on city council follow through with this plan, a cultural and business hub in downtown Calgary will be seriously damaged if not wiped out and all because of an almost obsessive anti-car mandate in Calgary’s city hall.
The Chinatown business association is already loudly speaking out against this absurd plan and long established businesses such as the Silver Dragon restaurant are saying that this plan would force them to close. Sadly, this will fall on deaf ears with Cagary’s Mayor and city council.
One only needs to walk down 8th avenue and count all the “for lease” signs to see how well downtown pedestrian zones are doing. A trip through the ghostly and nearly empty Eau Claire Market demonstrates how well being placed in the middle of a no car zone pays off as well. It is utter insanity for Calgary to close yet another important road downtown without any real need or demand. Unfortunately Calgary is not guided by a Mayor and city council who are bound by concepts such as economic reality.
Nobody is going to ride a bike to patronize these businesses in January. People will not continue to pay $20 to park in an empty parking lot and they won’t walk 10 blocks to a business due to the lack of street parking. They simply will shop elsewhere.
Nenshi’s plan to turn downtown into an automotive free zone may pay off in the long run as tourists come to morbidly observe a ghost town of skyscrapers. Aside from that, nobody is going to benefit from this obsession with battling automotive use in a city which sits under a blanket of snow for half of the year.
Fire Nenshi and city council in 2021!
There is no other way to fix that gang.