Where will Calgary be in 50 years?

MC |

mC:t 2015.05.27 #makecalgarytalk

I’m new to Calgary and sometimes it’s hard not to compare it to home, New York City. While driving around my new city I have often found myself looking out of the window and asking where is the city? Where are the neighbourhoods? As a native New Yorker my idea of a neighbourhood is a couple of blocks defined by its buildings, economy, culture, food, and the people who have shaped it over time. After moving to Calgary I’ve been struggling to define the Calgarian neighbourhood and whether they exist in the same way they do in other major metropolitan cities.


In short I think they do, but they’re few and far between. By my definition Calgary has a couple of obvious neighbourhoods: Kensington, Inglewood, The Beltline, Downtown and Chinatown. The first three are defined by their location, trendy bars and restaurants, older brick buildings, and young “hipster” people. Downtown has the skyscrapers and commuters, and is usually empty after 7pm. Chinatown is defined by its restaurants, language and signage. But what about the rest of Calgary? Calgary is so much bigger than the neighbourhoods near its central core, yet past this all you get is suburban sprawl, not niehgbourhoods. Most of Calgary just seems like planned communities.


Yet I suppose this is to be expected; Calgary is a much younger city than New York.


New York‘s access to the ocean and navigable rivers led to its settlement in the early 1600s. The city’s growth started near the rivers and ports where there was work and eventually moved inland. Changing industries and constant waves of immigrants have organically formed and changed the neighbourhoods over time. Almost 300 years later, in 1894, Calgary was officially called a city after the railway arrived. Calgary grew around the railway, and that’s where we see most of the neighbouhoods of today. But the boom in the oil industry required quick development of housing for incoming workers, and so the planned communities developed.











So what will happen in the future? Where will Calgary be in 10, 20, 50 years? As Calgary grows, attracting more young people and more international people, and maybe diversifying its industry, where will the next neighbourhoods emerge? Will it have more apartment buildings and skyscrapers? Will it have new “little” neighbourhoods like NYC?



I think Calgary will change. It won’t be able to catch up to New York, but it will develop. The Calgary skyline is already evolving with several new skyscrapers expected to emerge by 2024. A growth in population and a more international community will lead to the development of more cultural “little” neighbourhoods. The transit system is due to expand and with that will come accessibility and the growth of trendy neighbourhoods in the place of planned communities. Instead of housing infills maybe we’ll see apartment infills. Calgary will always have suburbs, but in the future they’ll be few and far between.


Where do you think Calgary will be in 50 years or even 100 years?





[1] “Historical information.” City of Calgary. Accessed May 27, 2015 http://www.calgary.ca/CA/city-clerks/Pages/Corporate-records/Archives/Historical-information/Historical-Information.aspx

[2] “A Lengthy History of Calgary That Still Barely Scratches the Surface.” Avenue. Accessed May 27, 2015. http://www.avenuecalgary.com/City-Life/A-Lengthy-History-of-Calgary-That-Still-Barely-Scratches-the-Surface/

[3] “New York City.” History Channel. Accessed May 27, 2015. http://www.history.com/topics/new-york-city


Next: Heterogeneous typologies as urban homogenizers

Previous: Planting Community 



makeCalgary:talk provokes conversation among Calgarians about the design of our city. Catch up with us on Twitter (@makecalgarytalk), Instagram (makecalgarytalk), or Facebook.


  1. mooonunit says:

    I’m not sure if Calgary will ever catch up to New York, but at the same time I don’t think it ever has to. Calgary is distinctively unique from every other metropolis, and I think that is an advantage. Manhattan is an island, and density has always been an inherent design driver. I can see how our rolling planes and foothills didn’t necessitate the vertical climb in its early planning stages, for better or for worse. Regardless, I agree that we will develop over the years and that we are lucky to be so young with so much open space for experimentation and innovation right in the centre of town.

  2. admin says:

    I am interested in comparisons between cities – especially very different cities. We love to compare and rank places, but a closer look really reveals the degree to which specific places are products of much larger histories and economies. Can you imagine how different the history of North America would need to be for Calgary’s Stephen Avenue to be like Bleeker Street in NYC?

    Also at stake here is the idea of neighbourhood identity, which I think is developing here in Calgary, especially as the city changes. Would love to talk more about this idea.

Comments are closed.