Zoning by-laws were created for good reason. To keep gas stations out of residential cul-sacs, breweries away from family neighbourhoods and meat processing plants away from flower shops.
Areas of industrial or commercial/retail or residential use are separated and regulated – this type of organization in an urban area makes sense – to a point.
But with the rise of the new urbanity, with walkable streets, more doors on streets, a more vibrant and energetic city experience, the City of Calgary is poised to mashup some zoning bylaws to create harmony and a better life for all. Part new urban philosophy, part necessity for the Green Line.
Planning for Growth
Stephen Pearce in an interview with Metro Calgary described the types of mixed-use districts that are coming. Pearce is a planner who is working with Calgary Growth Strategies.
He said the first is not a new idea – mixed use. Mixed use means just that – residential and commercial. Many new live/work townhomes in Calgary’s booming condo industry are zoned this way – where a homeowner can conduct his business on the main floor and live upstairs. Park Pointe on 12 Ave SW is an example of this.
The other new zoning application is Mixed Use Active Frontage. Again, you can have residential involved but this means that a commercial enterprise that faces the street has to have an active use, like a retail store or food establishment.
Pearce said that as part of the research into preparing these new designations, his department studied similar practices in other Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
This type of zoning exists in areas like Bridgeland, Inglewood and Kensington but a new designation is required to include other aspects of a building, not just the size. Things like how wide the street-facing store front is and other elements of the design such as use of glass. By zoning this way, the City can control the look, feel, presentation and attractive nature of a street. You could have a larger supermarket with huge glass windows but the business next to it needs to have something complementary and not necessarily the same. They like to call it “activating the street frontage”.
New zoning regulations will guide property developers as they continue to build more density in the city and more transit-oriented development.
When you think of walking down the street in one of Calgary’s inner-city neighbourhoods or even out in the suburbs where developers are trying to build smarter, more sustainable communities, think about the arrangement of stores and restaurants. It’s a more interesting walk down the street where there are a lot of entrances and a diverse array of shopping or dining experiences. What new zoning will do is make this experience more dynamic by regulating some design standards. Ensuring pedestrians have a clear view of the inside of shops and services right at eye level. The width of an establishment will be determined by it’s use, be it shopping, dining or other walk-in services like banks and clinics.
This would also mean that spaces for office use or residential space would have to be located above street level is they are in a building that faces a commercial street.
There will also be provisions for buildings that face a busy commercial street that are taller than six storeys to create interest. Windows and balconies will have guidelines so that every unit in a dwelling will have adequate light and privacy.
The Matter of Parking
Parking has been a thorn in the side of city planners trying to encourage density in urban centres. Underground parking is pricey and the city’s requirement for specific amounts of parking during the zoning application process is a burden for developers. Under these new zoning guidelines, the City is prepared to offer a 25% reduction in the amount of parking it will require developers to provide as long as the building is 600 metres or closer to an LRT station or 150 metres or closer to a primary bus stop. And, for every four bike stalls provided by a developer, the city will allow one less parking stall.
The highly extensive report is available for viewing on the City of Calgary’s website.