New Calgary arena among debate points in council’s Downtown Economic Summit report

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WATCH: On Monday, Calgary councillors will review a series of action plans created after the Downtown Economic Summit in March. Doug Vaessen has details – Jun 19, 2017

When it comes to attracting new investment to Calgary, the Flames and a new arena can play an important role, according to Calgary Economic Development.

At a strategic session of city council on Monday, results from the recently-held Downtown Economic Summit were reviewed by councillors.

Held in March, the summit was a joint project between the City of Calgary, Calgary Economic Development (CED) and Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC). About 160 participants took part, answering questions about Calgary’s downtown core with the hopes of addressing record-high unemployment and a growing office vacancy.

The results included 67 potential short-term, medium-term and long-term action plans.

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

When reviewing a report on the summit on Monday, Ward 2 Councillor Joe Magliocca wanted to know what it would mean to not have an NHL team and new arena in the city.

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“When we go out and pitch companies, hockey is a topic that comes up early in the conversation,” replied Mary Moran, president of Calgary Economic Development.

“I’m not going to lie to you, we often bring hockey shirts to encourage those who are hockey fans to consider Calgary.”

However, Moran told council that a new arena would help attract big name music acts.

READ MORE: Brett Wilson slams Calgary mayor and council for ‘dawdling’ on new arena

“I also find it difficult when we’re encouraging and we’ve invested in a National Music Centre, yet we’re allowing big acts to fly over top of us to Edmonton or Vancouver,” Moran said.

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

According to the report, the Conference Board of Canada (CBOC) predicts Calgary’s economy will grow by 2.3 per cent in 2017.

“While job growth will resume, it will not return in the same form, rate or compensation prior to the recent recession,” the report states.

According to the CBOC, Calgary’s downtown office vacancy rate was 25 per cent in 2016 and is forecasted to reach 27.3 per cent in 2017, with approximately 12 million square feet of unoccupied office space.

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READ MORE: 20% of Calgary downtown office space vacant, highest level in over 30 years

The CBOC projects that Calgary is unlikely to see any new downtown office real estate investment for at least 12 years.

“Gradually rising oil prices will help Calgary pull out of recession,” the report concludes. “However, the fact is the oil and gas industry has fundamentally changed.”

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