To fully understand the urban sprawl in Calgary all you need to do is go downtown on a weekend.
Nobody is there. What is a crazy beehive of activity 9-5 becomes a ghost town on the evenings and weekends.most expensive parking rates in the world. It’s easy to understand why, about 150 000 people work there during regular office hours, and there is parking for less than a 1/3 of them. So it’s busy during the workday, but once the 5 oclock whistle blows, everyone bolts for the burbs.
I grew up in Vancouver where downtown was the hub of the spoke and everyone gathered there – especially for shopping. In Calgary the spokes turn the wheel and the core is vacant.
The last weekend before Christmas should be insane. And it is, depending on where you go. I took the photos for this post at 11:30 on Saturday, December 21, 2013. The last Saturday before Christmas should have been crazy – it wasn’t.
In the suburban malls it takes people more than an hour to leave the parking lot. Never mind the jostling for position to get in the lot and find a parking spot.
The story is quite different downtown. For $2 you can have your pick and not wait. And then wander the mall almost to yourself.
A city is better with people downtown in a vibrant core, a central place for the entire city to gather and mingle. Nenshi’s working on it, trying to bump up residential density downtown which would bring more after hours life to the city. There’s a great campaign encouraging people to boast #IAmDowntown, but it will take time to catch hold. Especially with developers thumbing their nose at the idea.