Opinion: Glenmore Landing isn't suited for redevelopment plan

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David Jacobs

When is protected parkland not protected?

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Richard White’s column in the Oct. 7 Herald neglected to mention that the city is selling five acres of Glenmore Reservoir parkland to RioCan for this development. City Hall neglected to share this information with Calgarians when this parkland was declared surplus in 2015 and it is now subject to a rezoning application benefiting both developer and city coffers. 

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White seems to have forgotten that from the 1970s to mid-1980s, city hall fought all the way to the Supreme Court with the original developer to maximize the parkland and ensure Glenmore Landing would not be a blight on the adjoining communities of Heritage Park and Glenmore Reservoir. That great legacy and vision, protected by caveat, must be upheld and continued.

The RioCan land-use application states that in the “first phase” there will only be 1,248 residential units (six 36-storey towers), plus intensified commercial development resulting in an additional 3,000 residents and employees living and working on site. Additionally, RioCan proposes two additional residential towers and three additional multi-use buildings of nine to 17 storeys: basically, a commercial pedestal with residential and office buildings above with underground parking. 

White further speaks of “fewer and taller buildings (that) will allow more light into the interior of the site, as well as more homes with spectacular reservoir, mountain and downtown views.” Six towers to the east and south of the existing plaza and more to the north and west will create concrete canyons exceeding downtown densities. In this well-calculated scheme, there will be some spectacular views, but this will be neither affordable nor family housing.

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White previously noted in his May 5 column that “Calgary must stop missing opportunities for new affordable housing.” He acknowledged there were many LRT stations and other sites well suited for affordable housing — this site was not on his list. High-density rental and mixed-use development needs access to high-speed, high-capacity LRT and multiple bus routes feeding the station. White notes there are only two bus routes serving this site.

Glenmore Landing, as envisioned, will not be “affordable.” It is also not close to schools, nor a full range of affordable stores, services, playgrounds and ball fields. Glenmore Reservoir does not accommodate these types of family recreational needs.

With only two driveways serving the site and no more possible in an already congested area, it is unrealistic to add traffic from potentially 5,000 residents and expect 90th Avenue to function safely. What does the mandatory traffic impact analysis predict?

While White notes “the new ring road with interchanges at Southland and 90th Avenue S.W. should take some of the traffic off 14th Street S.W. and its link to Glenmore Trail,” he fails to mention the infrastructure effects on transportation, water and sewer, and the recreational impact on the Weaselhead, South Glenmore Park, Fish Creek and the Glenmore Reservoir. Can infrastructure support this and other proposed neighbouring development? Notwithstanding the above, a community-requested Area Redevelopment Plan is required to eliminate any perceived irregularities.

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The redevelopment proposal is inappropriate for this unique and special parkland-protected area. It is unacceptable planning and does not meet normal human scale needs. A flawed process is underway. All Calgarians should demand an explanation as to why these particular lands must be opened up to development. Was nothing else available? A caution for all of us: If they can do it here, they can and will do it anywhere.

Conceptually, respectful, appropriate and responsible densification of our city is beneficial, however, densification is not inherently ‘location’ appropriate. There was good reason these lands were protected in the first place.

Areas where redevelopment is appropriate do exist. Glenmore Landing is not one of them.

David Jacobs is an urban planner with 40 years of public and private experience.

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