Calgary pulls plug on Expo 2017 bid, keeps West Village plans

 

Move makes Edmonton only Canadian city competing for event

 
 
 
 
West Village redevelopment area.
 
 

West Village redevelopment area.

Photograph by: Courtesy, City of Calgary

CALGARY - Calgary will not be bidding on Expo 2017, but is pushing ahead with ambitious plans to redevelop the western edge of downtown where the event would have been staged.

Mayor Dave Bronconnier said a bid wasn't feasible without large cash infusions from other levels of government, adding he'd rather ask for infrastructure money for a southeast LRT line or other projects before Expo.

"The financial case had to make sense," Bronconnier said. "It had to be a different Expo, one that's financially viable and not a drain on the public purse.

"I, for one, am not prepared to go to the provincial or the federal government with something that I know comes with a price tag of a $1-billion to $1.5-billion deficit.

"City council is very realistic about the challenges both federal and provincial governments face."

Instead, the city will move forward with redeveloping over the next 25 years what it's calling the West Village--45 hectares along the Bow River at the downtown's western end, which include the Telus World of Science, Shaw Millennium Park, the Greyhound bus terminal, the contaminated former Canada Creosote site, car dealerships and the Pumphouse Theatres.

The city already owns about 95 per cent of the land in the area, and plans to finance the work the way the East Village redevelopment is being paid for--by redirecting the property tax from that specific area.

Planners envision green space, condos, a community centre and possibly new homes for the Alberta College of Art and Design and the proposed Global Energy Centre.

It would also mean the realignment of Bow Trail.

Calgary's withdrawal leaves Edmonton as the sole Canadian city planning to vie for Expo 2017, which would coincide with Canada's 150th birthday. If the federal government decides to endorse Edmonton's bid, it would still have to win an international competition.

Bronconnier said just to finalize an Expo bid by the end of the month, the deadline set by the Canadian heritage department, Calgary would have had to invest another $2 million, on top of the $300,000 already committed.

Scott Hennig, with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the city made the right decision.

"Even if the province and feds were rolling in surpluses, (Expo) is a terrible idea," he said. "The City of Calgary is absolutely right to run away from this thing."

But Ald. Joe Connelly was one of four aldermen who believed it was worth pushing ahead to try to win the Canadian competition.

"I'm extremely disappointed," he said, adding the province and federal government weren't even asked what they might contribute. "We just gave the Expo bid to Edmonton.

"I hate losing to Edmonton, but to not have the courage to show up for the fight . . ."

Aldermen John Mar, Andre Chabot and Ric McIver also voted against halting bid preparations.

"There was too much speculation here," Mar said of the role of other governments. "Council was not willing to take that leap, but I think it was worth it."

Ald. Dale Hodges, who didn't support pursuing an Expo bid from the beginning, said the numbers didn't make any sense.

"It's a huge endeavour and a huge public investment. The city mustn't be left in a position to backstop what could be major losses," he said.

The city also bid for Expo 2005, losing to Nagoya, Japan, after spending $5.5 million on the effort.

When Calgary announced in May it was looking at making another Expo bid, it angered Edmonton, which had been openly working on a bid for about seven months, and some MLAs.

Calgary MLA Lindsay Blackett, minister of culture and community spirit, was frustrated that neither he nor the mayor of Edmonton had been alerted to Calgary's plans. The province gave Edmonton $1.14 million to prepare its bid; Calgary did not ask for any money.

On Monday, Blackett's spokesman directed Expo calls to the tourism minister, Calgary's Cindy Ady, who could not be reached for comment.

With the Expo bid off the table, Bronconnier said the city will move ahead on developing the West Village in phases. The first opportunity arises in 2011, he said, with the Telus World of Science moving to its new complex across from the zoo and vacating the city-owned building it's been using.

The mayor said the Global Energy Centre, part of the city's 10-year strategic plan, could be a good fit for that site. ACAD is also looking to relocate from its current site next to SAIT and planners suggested the West Village might work for the art college.

Peter Rishaug, vice-president of the Sunalta community association, which includes the West Village, said reinventing that corner of the neighbourhood is a good idea.

"I see a lot of upside," he said. Mar, who represents the area, believes there is a great opportunity.

"It absolutely allows us to reclaim a huge portion, three, four kilometres of river frontage," he said.

The most expensive piece of redevelopment in the area includes the remediation of the former Canada Creosote plant site, where wood was preserved between 1924 and 1962, leaving the site contaminated.

Bronconnier said the estimated costs to clean up the site range from $30 million to $100 million.

kguttormson@theherald.canwest.com

 
 
 
 
 
 

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West Village redevelopment area.
 

West Village redevelopment area.

Photograph by: Courtesy, City of Calgary

 
West Village redevelopment area.
Only Calgary and Edmonton have notified the federal government of their intent to bid on the 2017 Expo--which is being held the same year as Canada's 150th birthday--and Calgary's interest came as a surprise to Edmonton officials, provincial MLAs and even some civic agencies.
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Calgary has pulled out of bidding on Expo 2017, determining that it wasn’t feasible to proceed without large cash infusions from other levels of government. That leaves Edmonton as Canada’s lone city competing for the international event.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Rhonda
 
November 04, 2009 - 4:49 PM
 
 Gee, it must be time to get the old campaign wagon rolling eh, Dave! I'm hoping that the majority of your prior supporters are not as stupid as you seem to believe they all are. And I'm betting the Dave non-supporters are clapping with glee!! You are about as predictable as the sun coming up every morning. Come election time, no doubt about it, here comes 'bobble-head Dave' and 'his' great ideas. Ideas that he shot down gleefully when they were first proposed by other Council members or Calgary taxpayers. I know you believe to be a superior human being among the rest of us, but I'm hoping that the citizens of one of Canada's best cities will finally see through your transparent facade and vote for someone who is actually interested in pursuing what's best for Calgary, not their political aspirations. I have to give it to you though, you never fail to amaze me at what a moron you really are!!
   
 
Ron
 
November 04, 2009 - 10:49 AM
 
 Good job! we have to start focusing on things that matter, the Expo is not a priority right now. Lets keep working for this city.
   
 
John
 
November 03, 2009 - 11:55 AM
 
 I wish Edmonton all the best, but Calgary should not have bidded in the first place if they were not committed. I have no doubt that Calgary would have put on a World-topping show had a bid been successful, as we do with everything we host, from the most successful Winter Olympics of all time to the recent Worldskills competition. That said, Edmonton was first out of the gate and as such should have remained Alberta's bid city. For all you naysayers, an Edmonton Expo would be good for all Albertans as many out-of-province visitors would likely fly into and out of Calgary (being the main air travel hub in the prairies) and most visitors would probably take the opportunity to visit Calgary and other Alberta tourism hotspots.
   
 
@ Some Calgarian
 
November 03, 2009 - 11:26 AM
 
 Well said! That's all I can say! The Expo bid was totally classless and a ridiculous ploy to try to one-up Edmonton. I have to say...Calgary totally plays the childish role in this one.
   
 
Kwh
 
November 03, 2009 - 10:36 AM
 
 By the looks of this plan I think they need to change the name to Millionaires Row.looks like poor access to the river and zero parking for the public
   
 
Wild Rose
 
November 03, 2009 - 10:30 AM
 
 Hey "Edmonton deserves this", Edmonton no more deserves to host an Expo than Calgary or any other Canadian city for that matter and your opinion that Edmonton would do a better job representing the province of Alberta than Calgary is narrow-minded to say the least. Both cities have hosted word-class events over the past 25 years and did stellar jobs doing so. Your comments are callous and classless.
   
 
Some Bridgeland Resident
 
November 03, 2009 - 9:27 AM
 
 

I came here for the whining about the bridges, and was not disappointed.

I hope the NE and NW are enjoying the BILLION DOLLAR RING ROAD. Compared to that, $25 mil is a drop in the bucket.  

   
 
Some Calgarian
 
November 03, 2009 - 9:10 AM
 
 The last minute bid was a classless, childish move anyway. What's next? Maybe stopping the Olympic torch relay at COP so we can usurp the Olympics from Vancouver? This is like deciding today that Edmonton should host the 2009 Grey Cup. To Joe Connelly: I bet you drive a Hummer, or some other "compensator" type of vehicle.
   
 
Bridges!!!
 
November 03, 2009 - 8:55 AM
 
 Oh no, looks like there is another expensive designer bridge planned for West Village. What, is the city gonna go and hire another European hack to design it!!? This is outrageous! I'm gonna tell my 5 year old right now to start on this design! Perhaps then it can be designed and built for a reasonable price, because I know exactly how much a normal bridge costs!!! We can use the money we save and put it towards the second ring road. I know exactly how much that will cost too! What we need are more roads!!! We can then showcase these in the next Expo!!! Ohhh I hate bridges so much!!! But I do completely understand how a city is run and built.
   
 
Not-a-redneck Albertan
 
November 03, 2009 - 8:21 AM
 
 Realy Dave you think maybe expanding transit and maintaining ifastructure is a little more important ? Wow funny how now, pulling out seems all like "Dave's idea" when he was all hellfire to backstab Edmontons first bid. Pressure a little too much? Smile profile left to the camera again Dave and don't forget the white hat. Good luck to Edmonton, and maybe as pay back they will leave out advertising anything to do with it's greedy neighbour to the south.
   
 
Finally
 
November 03, 2009 - 8:07 AM
 
 Finally reason has joined Calgary City Council; let's hope she stays for a while!
   
 
Bill
 
November 03, 2009 - 7:58 AM
 
 Good call! These EXPO'S are a huge waste of money like the OLYMPICS.
   
 
Good Call Bronco...
 
November 03, 2009 - 7:52 AM
 
 Expo is just a waste of money anyways. Edmonton won't get it either so who cares.
   
 
Edmonton deserves this.
 
November 03, 2009 - 7:45 AM
 
 Everyone knows that Edmonton is more deserving of the exposition than our town. As the Capital of Alberta, Edmonton would do a great job representing our province as they are much more Albertan than Calgary ever will be and much more mature and sophisticated than our transient population of implants. I hope they get the chance. Go Edmonton !
   
 
James
 
November 03, 2009 - 7:44 AM
 
 

The urban development will be better in the long run for Calgary. I like the West Village Concept. Such as waste of land as it is now.

   
 
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