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Mayor gives to get East Village campus
Source: CAL - Calgary Herald
Mar 02 06:24
Page: B1 / FRONT
Section: City & Region
Column: Don Braid
Byline: Don Braid
Mayor Dave Bronconnier says he'll press for the city to donate land for a new multi-use education campus being discussed for the East Village.
"I know some aldermen might oppose donating land for this, but I would argue strongly that the city should either donate the land or lease it long-term for one dollar," the mayor told the Herald Monday.
"This project would bring something real to the East Village, a true magnet for redevelopment in an area that desperately needs it, with shops, commercial and residential to follow."
Bronconnier's pledge could further boost an idea that has been mentioned before, but is now generating excitement at U of C and around the city.
University president Harvey Weingarten broached the plan in a speech last Monday, but players from city hall, post-secondary schools and the non-profit sector had already been discussing it for weeks.
"It's absolutely wonderful," says Colin Jackson, CEO of the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts. "This is the kind of thing that can give Calgary a beating heart around the clock."
The province is quietly but keenly interested, other sources say.
But the provincial government won't supply funds unless other parties bring something to the project. Bronconnier's offer to donate land is a big step in that direction.
Hints of non-government funding, a major part of the puzzle, are also beginning to appear.
Jim Hume, president of the charitable Kahanoff Foundation, said Monday the foundation could give financial support to a plan that benefits U of C.
"We believe in U of C as key institution in the city," Hume says.
"Potentially, we would look at this as a funder."
Hume says an East Village development would complement the foundation's ambitious plans for a "non-profit campus" at 12th Avenue and Centre Street N.W.
The Stampede Board is also interested in co-ordinating with an East Village development.
Planners at the university and city are already talking about linking Victoria Park to the East Village, either with overpasses or underpasses across the CPR tracks and 9th Avenue S.E.
"Imagine a campus with many users near the river, one of the most beautiful spots in the city," says Mayor Bronconnier.
"It would be a tremendous catalyst for rejuvenation."
In an election year, the mayor and aldermen would love to announce a project for the troublesome patch east of City Hall.
The land was supposed to be developed for a World's Fair in 2005, but that fell through when Japan won the fair amid allegations of payoffs when the decision was made in Monaco.
The city's next effort, a development run out of city hall, was cancelled after investigations showed serious mismanagement.
The campus plan, perhaps the most exciting ever proposed for the area, has yet to encounter any significant criticism.
But the mayor says that before the city makes any land donation, there must be a solid project with participation, not just by the U of C, but by other groups such as the Calgary Health Region, Mount Royal College, SAIT, the city's two boards of education, and non-profit bodies.
"A lot of people have to come to the table on this, and they all have to bring something," the mayor says.
And many will, it seems -- including the CHR, which might participate with some sort of education centre.
"Yes, we are keen to be a player," says vice-president Don Campbell.
"We see it as a good opportunity for us, the university and other stakeholders to be better connected into the downtown community."
There's another thought, too, although hardly anybody dares mention it yet -- the downtown campus, linked to East Village development, would be a perfect Alberta Centennial project for Calgary.
Received Id 20040302CAL281909 on Mar 02 2004 06:24