Mayor Nenshi proposes “Brighten Up Stephen Ave” plan to City Council

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A Stephen Avenue sign on Stephen Avenue

CALGARY, Alberta – Regular visitors to the Stephen Avenue mall in Calgary’s downtown core know that in late summer and fall, the sun’s golden rays no longer fall on the busy pedestrian shopping thoroughfare. This thanks in large part to the taller buildings along Stephen Avenue’s south side casting much unwanted shade on the street vendors and restaurant patios.

But according to Mayor Nenshi, this problem can be a thing of the past if his Brighten Up Stephen Avenue proposal is accepted by city council.

The plan, as outlined in Mayor Nenshi’s State of the City pamphlet that was delivered to Calgarians earlier this week, involves tearing down all buildings on the south side of Stephen Avenue that are 3 storeys tall or taller. Building owners also have the option to invert their buildings, so that they go down, not up.

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Mayor Nenshi

We have people complaining to City Hall day-in and day-out about how the shade along the north side Stephen Avenue patios really sucks late in summer and into fall. Whaaa, whaaaa, whhaaaa, I’m getting sick and tired of it.

Anywhoooo… I’m planning to do something about it. And to make it fair to the building owners, my plan will give them some options – either tear down and build elsewhere or invert. By eliminating the tall buildings on the south side [of the street mall] there will be nothing but clouds that can get in the way of the sunshine. – Mayor Nenshi standing outside of his favourite 8th Avenue pub.

Understanding that this is going to be a rather large undertaking for most building owners, the city has agreed to subsidize the cost of the project to the tune of $374 billion. In an effort to raise funds in anticipating the project going ahead, the City plans to hike residential property  taxes by 12,749% over the next 3 years, to an average household tax burden of $112,486 per year.

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Peter Peppersack, P.Eng.

$112k per year for my property taxes?! WTF? That’s a second mortgage! I’m doing pretty good here in Calgary, but those monthly TIPP payments eat up my entire net monthly income, so I’m not sure how he expects this to work. And I don’t even frequent Stephen Avenue, so why will I have to pay for this in the first place?! – Peter Peppersack, P.Eng., concerned citizen

Amid the obvious concerns over the cost of the idea, opponents have asked what the effect on peoples’ work ethic will be if they are forced into subterranean offices with no windows or forced air circulation.  The issue has been studied by Calgary-based Bendovus Energy in the past, but research was halted due to building code violations in its labs.  There are also concerns about the possibility of the building filling with water during the rumoured Annual Flood Festival.

The City of Calgary plans to hire consultant Rhomas Pickletin, a professional geophysicist registered with the Province of Alberta, to carry out all of the pre-construction geophysical work required for the project. “When you’re taking two very tall buildings such as the Bankers Hall towers, and basically turning them upside down, there’s a lot about the underground that you must first understand, and that’s where my expertise really comes into play. My big concern right now is the water table, but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”

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