Why we should turn Calgary’s empty office towers over to the creative economy

Arts & Culture Economic Development Year in Review


The author of the Op-Ed calls for the empty office space downtown to be converted to studio/work space for independent artists, painters, writers, musicians, sculptors, architects, 3D animators, fashion designers etc. With around 1.4 million square meters of vacant office space, the author says that this is doing the economy no good and calls for the City of Calgary to devote some of its $100 million Downtown Help Fund to fast track space for artists, painters, musicians, etc. It currently costs $15 per square foot on average to rent space in downtown meaning a 250 square-foot studio would cost $315 per month – a very attractive figure to artists.

The author calls for Calgary to follow the lead of other cities such as Berlin, New York, London and Paris, where artists have been the catalyst for urban renewal. Today, Berlin is one of the world’s leading art cities, partly because of cheap studio space. And eventually the arts became a major economic engine for the city, generating a substantial part of its GDP.

However, some believe there may be a culture clash between the very different downtown corporate culture and artistic community. But the author suggests that the benefits will outweigh this clash. The author says bringing in artists will benefit downtown cafes, restaurants, pubs and shops. As well as opening up the possibility that downtown could foster a seven-days-a-week culture, rather than the ghost town vibe in the evenings and weekends.

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