March 2, 2017 10:20 am
Updated: March 2, 2017 8:53 pm

Calgary conference brainstorms solutions to empty downtown towers

WATCH ABOVE: A Calgary conference was held Thursday to look for solutions to empty the downtown office glut. Gary Bobrovitz has advice from a U.S. mayor who went through a similar industry collapse.


Calgary city councillors, business leaders and other stakeholders are brainstorming how the city’s core can be revitalized as it struggles during the oil downturn.

A big concern is rising office vacancy rates now pegged at about 30 per cent.

READ MORE: Nearly one third of Calgary’s office space could be empty by 2018, says real estate firm

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That has city officials worried because the downtown businesses account for 40 per cent of non-residential tax revenue.

The former mayor of Pittsburgh is providing some advice at the Calgary conference after the steel industry collapsed in the 1980s and 50,000 people were leaving that city every year for a decade.

Tom Murphy said it mean thinking outside of the box and attracting new age industries that helped transform Steel Town USA into a high tech centre.

“People were leaving and starting companies elsewhere, now they are staying in Pittsburgh and starting companies,” Murphy said.

“Major corporations like Google, Uber and others are now located with major facilities and hundreds of employees in Pittsburgh because of the intellectual power that existed in the university and how that is changing all of our lives.”

READ MORE: Calgary’s downtown core suffering through 1980s-style recession

More than 150 business, community and government leaders attended the summit.

A report, including an action plan, will be presented to city councillors by June.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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