White: Calgary versus Helsinki

Richard White takes a take a look at what’s bringing vitality to the 2 cities.

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In September, Calgary Municipal Land Corp. hosted Tommi Laitio, govt director for tradition and leisure for the Metropolis of Helsinki, Finland, as a part of its ongoing Creating Vibrant Downtowns audio system’ sequence. He’s at the moment researching the position of partnership in creating vibrant parks and libraries in 5 totally different cities. What me most about his discuss was the similarities of how Helsinki and Calgary have and are at the moment attempting to foster extra downtown vitality.

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Significance of Library

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The obvious similarity was the opening of a brand new downtown public library by each cities late in 2018, each of which serve not solely as conventional libraries, however as a neighborhood centre for residents within the coronary heart of the town in Calgary’s case. In Helsinki’s case the Oodi Library just isn’t solely a metropolis landmark but additionally a rustic one.

What’s much more wonderful is the similarity within the design and massing of the 2 buildings. Whereas the architects are totally different, the 2 buildings have very comparable massing, scale and design, together with an enormous arch on the entrance.

Whereas the brand new library was the catalyst for enhancing downtown Helsinki’s vibrancy, Laitio famous the significance of the personal Amos Rex museum (subsequent door to the Library) which opened its subterranean annex additionally in 2018. Calgary’s equal can be the Nationwide Music Centre, which opened in 2016 to deal with one of many world’s largest personal collections of keyboard devices, only a block from our library.

white downtown revitalization beakerhead
Mayor Jyoti Gondek controls Prosthesis, The Anti Robotic made by Exosapien Know-how, as a part of Beakerhead in 2022. Picture by Jim Wells /Postmedia

Variety of Tasks

Laitio rapidly identified “nobody single mission makes a metropolis.” He then mentioned greater than 20 totally different initiatives from 2000 to 2030 which have enhanced (or will improve) Helsinki’s downtown vitality. Issues like Tuska (Ache) heavy steel music competition (which began in 1998 and moved to Kaisaniemi Park in the midst of the town in 2001), World Design Capital (2012) and renovations to a number of public museums, artwork galleries and public transit enhancements.

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Once more, I couldn’t assist however suppose how Calgary’s downtown has additionally added quite a few parks, public areas, festivals and transit since 2000. Here’s a fast checklist:

  • 2000: Shaw Millennium Park with its big skate park, basketball and seashore volleyball courts and a brand new competition web site.
  • 2000: North Constructing of Calgary TELUS Conference Centre and BMO Centre growth.
  • 2000: The Bridges masterplan for redevelopment of Calgary Normal Hospital web site.
  • 2002: Prince’s Island Park renovation with new stage, Chevron Studying Pathway.
  • 2007: Sled Island Music and Artwork Pageant.
  • 2009: East Village grasp plan permitted, one other BMO Centre growth.
  • 2011: TELUS Spark and East Village Riverwalk.
  • 2012: West Leg of LRT and seventh Avenue LRT Station refurbishment.
  • 2013: Beakerhead — artwork, engineering and science competition.
  • 2013: Bow Valley Faculty South Campus constructing.
  • 2014: Nutrien Western Occasion Centre.
  • 2015: St. Patrick’s Island renovations.
  • 2016: Nationwide Music Centre and Enmax Park.
  • 2017: BUMP (Beltline City Mural Program).
  • 2018: Central Library and MAX bus speedy transit community.
  • 2018: Excessive Park on roof of the Metropolis Centre parkade.
  • 2020: Up to date Calgary in outdated Science Centre Planetarium constructing.
  • 2024: BMO Centre turns into largest occasion centre in Western Canada.
  • 2026: JR Shaw Centre for Arts and Tradition (previously Glenbow).
  • 2030: growth and renovations of Arts Commons, Olympic Plaza and Stephen Avenue, new area at Stampede Park.

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Be Extra Calgary

One of many largest takeaway concepts I received from Laitio’s discuss was the concept that “it’s important to construct by yourself tradition.” Laitio’s analysis indicated that “Helsinki needed to be extra Helsinki,” not attempt to be Stockholm, Copenhagen or another metropolis. In Helsinki’s case it was to construct on the town’s present uniqueness, issues like its sauna and heavy steel band tradition.

FYI: In Finland the sauna is sort of a second lounge — there are 3.3 million saunas for five.5 million individuals. And, Finland has 53 heavy steel bands per 100,000 individuals — the very best per capita on the earth.

In Calgary’s case, I count on it will be to construct on our Stampede tradition, which is occurring with Stampede Park’s mega makeover that features the brand new SAM Centre, a state-of-the-art western heritage museum opening in early 2024. The addition of a Stampede-theme restaurant bar can be a logical addition to Stephen Avenue Stroll, possibly even a Stampede-themed lodge.

The Bow and Elbow Rivers are additionally an necessary a part of Calgary’s DNA. The town has carried out quite a few initiatives to boost Calgary’s river expertise from Shaw Millennium Park to Fort Calgary Park, with extra within the works. Over the previous 20 years floating on the river has turn into highly regarded, maybe the creation of a sequence of summer season seashores alongside the Bow and Elbow Rivers is the subsequent step. Wouldn’t a big year-round out of doors heated public swimming pool subsequent to the river can be enjoyable? What about extra eating places and cafes alongside the river to encourage individuals to linger?

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Calgary additionally must rejoice its distinctive “oil and gasoline” and agriculture historical past. Beakerhead is the right competition for Calgary because it combines artwork, science and engineering. What if there was a everlasting Beakerhead Innovation Laboratory in downtown Calgary the place locals and guests may find out about Alberta’s improvements from oil and gasoline to agriculture in partnership with Telus Spark, Up to date Calgary, Arts Commons and Glenbow.

Calgary’s plus-15 indoor walkway is a big a part of downtown Calgary’s distinctive DNA. What if the town planners and constructing homeowners embraced the plus-15 to create a serious customer attraction with cafes, eating places, pop-up outlets, gardens, extra public artwork and programming. Quite than shut it down, open it up. It may very well be a-mazing!

Police Partnerships

Whereas many discovered Laitio’s discuss inspiring, I can’t assist however suppose he was preaching to the transformed. Calgary has been doing the identical factor Helsinki and each metropolis in North America and Europe have been doing for many years in an try to boost downtown vibrancy — renovate or add new parks, public areas, festivals, libraries, artwork galleries and museums. Some with extra success than others.

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What I discovered unusual was Laitio made no point out of the necessity for extra residential improvement as a way of making a vibrant downtown. Nonetheless, he did point out the significance of the working with the police division to verify downtown is secure, which is unquestionably the largest barrier to Calgary’s downtown vibrancy right this moment. It could have been attention-grabbing to study extra about what distinctive security initiatives are taking place in Helsinki.

Final Phrase

I shared a draft of this column with Laitio and he responded with “the primary variations between the 2 cities are that Helsinki has no skyscrapers and 79 per cent of journey is finished on foot, bike or public transit.” Then including “there’s a lot in Calgary that feels very acquainted. I texted a pal when in Calgary that I may see myself dwelling life right here.”

Sufficient stated!

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