Asking the hard questions of Mike Harcourt and panel.
Вen Li/the Gauntlet

Harcourt's idea of community

Former Premier speaks on sustainable urban planning

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Move over synergy, you've been replaced by sustainability as the new big business buzz word.

As Calgary's population grows past the one million mark, sustainability is a concept that will only continue to be forefront, and careful urban planning is of the utmost importance to ensure Calgary is inhabitable for future generations.

Former British Columbia Premier and Vice Chair of the CitiesPLUS Project, Michael Harcourt, spoke at the Jack Singer Concert Hall Tue., Sept. 28 as part of the Sustainable Urban Futures speaker series hosted in part by the University of Calgary. Harcourt's lecture was proceeded by a heated panel discussion and question period featuring two U of C professors, two Developers, and a City of Calgary official, to discusses the future of Calgary over the next 10, 50 and 100 years.

"There will be over 25 billion people joining the planet in the next 50 years--mostly in cities," explained Harcourt. "The Human species is proliferating like crazy."

Harcourt explained this rapid population growth, in combination with a mass migration to urban centers, means cities like Calgary need to make careful decisions and plan for the future to guarantee a continued high quality of life.

"Cities are not preordained," said Harcourt. "They're about choices and consequences. The community you get is the community you choose. If you think status quo, that's what you're going to get."

Harcourt emphasized the key to sustainability lies within the concept of building a complete community, including a compact metropolitan area, greater densities, and an increase in public transportation options.

Not all panel participants agreed with Harcourt's ideal of the complete community.

"We know that improving transit into the downtown core reduces the need to live downtown," commented Jim Dewald, President and CEO of Stone Creek Properties.

Another issue raised by Paul Taylor, Vice-President of Hopewell Residential Communities, was higher building densities necessity for a sustainable city also equate a rise in transportation problems because road zoning is based on residential density being six to seven units per acre.

The panelists seemed to agree that there is no easy way to build a sustainable city, and on the need to look toward the younger generation for fresh, new ideas.

"You can't go playing with one thing without affecting five or six others," said Mary-Ellen Tyler, former Dean of the U of C Faculty of Environmental Design.

"We've got bright young people looking to work on today's problems with today's knowledge," states Nigel Waters, U of C Geography professor.