“The public perception of safety, and the journey that they’re on in their recovery is significantly different and quite positive,” said Saunders. “There’s a very active office conversion program, there’s a lot of positive signals that their economy is in recovery out of COVID.”
Henry Edgar, the president of Autograph, said his company got zoning for a 780-unit project at the corner of 106th Street and 102nd Avenue, pre-COVID. That decision was spurred by the promise of new parks, bike lanes and LRT access. But the market has since dropped.
“If we were to proceed with this development today, our returns would be negative,” he said.
But downtown needs more people, so he believes there is a need for the City to help developers kick-start their projects,
“The number-one key ingredient is people,” said Edgar. “I believe that people create eyes on the street, safety in numbers. They’re the customers for struggling retail, restaurants and cafes, they create vibrancy for events and festivals.
“Without people, we simply cannot expect an easy road to recovery.”
This will continue to be a messy issue heading into 2024. Public Interest Alberta has made it clear that it will lobby against the developers’ wishes. Bradley LaFortune, the group’s executive director, said of the Halloween meeting: “I was thinking about going as a developer. But, instead of asking for candy, I thought I’d ask for 100 bucks for every square inch of my pillowcase… Now is not the time to be giving out handouts to developers.”