Breadcrumb Trail Links
An opinion piece on July 1 by Deimira Baidoo, president of Melcom Homes, comparing Calgary and Denver was very misleading. In Baidoo’s opinion, Calgary has a lot to learn from Denver regarding population density, technology, skilled human capital, public transit and labour productivity. In my opinion, Denver has a lot to learn from Calgary.
Baidoo states Calgary’s population is twice Denver’s, when in fact the opposite is true. Yes, the City of Denver’s population is about 750,000, but its metro population is almost three million.
He goes on to suggest Calgary should “set itself apart as an innovation hub or technology incubator.” That is exactly what Calgary is doing with such initiatives as the Platform Innovation Centre and the University of Calgary’s Program Innovation Hub. The Royal Bank of Canada is creating the Calgary Innovation Hub at Bankers Hall. In fact, there are 1,356 startups in Calgary as of May 2023. Over the past five years, Calgary Economic Development has fostered a 22 per cent increase in tech jobs, and recently the University of Calgary announced the development of a University Innovation Quarter next to the Brentwood LRT station to attract more tech sector startups.
Baidoo suggests Calgary “could do more to attract the aerospace industry like Denver.” Again, CED has been working on this for years. In September 2022, De Havilland Canada announced it will be building a new aircraft manufacturing facility just east of the city that could open as early as 2025. It will also include the De Havilland Canada aircraft museum.
Baidoo is correct that Denver has LRT service to its airport, a larger LRT system than Calgary’s and a regional rail system that includes their heritage Union Station. Too bad he fails to mention Calgary had an LRT system before Denver and its LRT is modelled after Calgary’s park-and-ride system. And, he could have noted Calgary Transit weekday LRT ridership in 2022 was 229,000, more than Denver’s ridership, even with a smaller population and less kilometres of track.
Baidoo suggests Denver has a more vibrant downtown with people hanging out in its trendy LoDo neighbourhood (lower downtown), while Calgary experiences a mass exodus at the end of the day. This is perhaps because Calgary has a large number of downtown workers with its 40 million square feet of office space versus Denver’s 26 million, so comparatively it seems like a mass exodus. And while Calgary has about 27 per cent downtown office vacancy, Denver isn’t far behind at 23 per cent.
Denver’s LoDo neighbourhood benefits from Coors Field (capacity 50,000 fans), home to the Colorado Rockies baseball team, which means 81 home games from April to October. The stadium, which opened in 1995, has been the catalyst for LoDo’s vibrant visible outdoor entertainment scene. Calgary will never be able to match this kind of development, even with its new arena, which will host only 41 home NHL games from October to April, when it is too cold in Calgary for a vibrant outdoor entertainment scene.
When it comes to urban living and population density, Calgary has significantly more people living downtown than Denver, (19,000 versus 12,000). In addition, another 35,000 people live south of Calgary’s downtown railway tracks and another 20,000 north of the Bow River, all with easy access to downtown, but also each has their own vibrant main streets — 17th Avenue, 4th Street, Kensington Village and 9th Avenue in Inglewood, so no need to come downtown.
In Baidoo’s opinion, Calgary needs to dedicate more resources to create more downtown amenities like the Saddledome deal. Again, that is exactly what the city has been doing for decades, with more than a billion dollars invested in projects such as the BMO Centre expansion, Central Library, National Music Centre, Contemporary Calgary, St. Patrick’s Island redevelopment, West Eau Claire Park, Bow to Bluff Park, River Walk, and pedestrian bridges Peace Bridge and George King Bridge. Another billion-plus is in the works for Glenbow renovations, Arts Commons expansion and renovations, Olympic Plaza and Stephen Avenue Walk enhancements over the next 10 years.
While Calgary should and has been learning from other cities for decades, other cities can also learn from Calgary. This city doesn’t have to take a back seat to any its size in North America when it comes to urban living and economic development. This is why Calgary is often rated as one of the top 10 most livable cities in the world and Denver isn’t. (The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) 2023 Global Liveability Index.)
Richard White is a Calgary writer passionate about travel, public art and urban development. He has a monthly column in the Herald’s Homes and Condos section.
Share this article in your social network
Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.