Civic Commons Catalyst: Supporting Transformative Revitalization of Underutilized Spatial Assets in Albertan Cities
Cities in Alberta are facing three concurrent challenges: 1) the impacts of COVID-19 on the near and long-term planning, design construction, and operations of the built environment; 2) the exacerbated downturn in the oil and gas sector; and 3) the significant pre-existing and exacerbated vacancy and underutilization of built-form assets in their downtown cores. In this period of uncertainty and transition, Albertan municipalities are increasingly open to new and innovative solutions that can address these challenges and forge a new identity divested from fossil fuels. Within this context, this paper explores the interdisciplinary research methodology employed in the Civic Commons Catalyst initiative—a multi-year project funded by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, and executed in collaboration with the City of Calgary, the City of Lethbridge, the City of Medicine Hat, the Town of Okotoks, Evergreen, and the Canadian Urban Institute.
Aimed at taking underutilized spatial assets in Albertan cities and catalyzing them into positive assets for the community that can revitalize their downtowns, the Catalyst is identifying zones of opportunity so that assets can be networked together and help focus strategies for economic development and impact investment. The Catalyst is also developing and deploying a comprehensive set of methods through a produced catalog of civic assets. The Catalyst is focused on the 30% vacancy in the downtown core of the City of Calgary while branching out to three new Alberta communities, deploying the research methods and findings to a rural setting—opening up opportunities and strategies for replicability across the rest of the province.