Downtown Calgary: Not Overbuilt, But Under-Demolished?

North America’s largest post-World War II central business district has just received unwelcome news (Note). Writing in the Calgary Herald, columnist Chris Varcoe (“Staggering $17B drop in value of downtown towers fuels search for solutions”) reported that downtown property assessments were down C$1.1 billion in a single year. This is a continuation of a long term trend, in which values of 160 properties dropped by more than two-thirds since 2015. Calgary, headquarters to much of Alberta’s oil industry, has been hard hit by the decline in oil prices and provincial oil production. Over the past year, part of the decline seems likely to be related to lockdowns and the general movement of many people to exurbs and farther.

Varcoe reported the present vacancy rate to be 34%, with five buildings “completely empty.” Ominously, an industry professional said: “The problem is we’re not overbuilt; we are under-demolished.”

Read entire article here.

Note: With the decline of transit and increased auto use, emerging large metropolitan areas have generally not built dense central business districts similar to their World War II predecessors. There are two notable exceptions, Calgary and Charlotte. Cushman and Wakefield indicates that downtown Calgary has about 44 million square feet of office space. This is about twice that of the second largest post-WW2 CBD, in Charlotte. Downtown Calgary has slightly more office space than downtown Philadelphia, with a metropolitan population about four times that of Calgary.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm located in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He is a founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, Houston, a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University in Orange, California. He has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. His principal interests are economics, poverty alleviation, demographics, urban policy and transport. He is co-author of the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey and author of Demographia World Urban Areas.

Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (1977-1985) and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appointed him to the Amtrak Reform Council, to complete the unexpired term of New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (1999-2002). He is author of War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life and Toward More Prosperous Cities: A Framing Essay on Urban Areas, Transport, Planning and the Dimensions of Sustainability.