Yesterday (and very early this morning) Calgary’s civic election results yielded an updated slate of Councillors who, along with Mayor Nenshi, face the enormous task of reconciling some significant municipal policy gaps. One of the most glaring of these is the gap between the City’s oft-cited policy that encourages urban densification, the current process for development approvals and the ever-present infrastructure constraints.
Recently, our Mission Road project – now dubbed Mission 34 – received development approval and can now finalize a sales launch in November prior to breaking ground early in 2014. This represents an important milestone for this typical urban mixed-use project, however the approval required 3 submissions to the planning department, more than 10 months to complete and very nearly stalled altogether over a seemingly minor sanitary services issue.
While we remain committed to an investment focus on urban redevelopment in Calgary, we are also highly sensitized to the investment risk related to development approval – in terms of both cost and time. It’s clear to us, along with our current and prospective development partners, that the lack of suitable policies, process integration and accountability among City of Calgary departments (e.g. planning, transportation and water resources) represents an unnecessarily high risk to private investment interests.
When the safety of the significant private capital required of private development swings on the interpretation of arcane, obscure or even non-existent policy, and an approval time frame over which the City has significant influence yet zero accountability, the result is highly predictable: investment capital goes elsewhere.
With the Mission 34 project approval we have again demonstrated our ability to effectively manage this risk and we look forward to participating with both industry partners and local government in creating practical solutions. At the same time however, we caution investors that even the best-conceived development projects are subject to these risk conditions.