Calgary withdraws Expo bid

Citing a lack of guaranteed cash, the City of Calgary has pulled the plug on its bid for Expo 2017, the international fair.

City announces redevelopment plan for west end of downtown

Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier speaks to media on Monday. ((CBC))

Citing a lack of guaranteed cash, the City of Calgary has pulled the plug on its bid for Expo 2017, the international fair.

Given massive deficits in Alberta and Ottawa, the city could not count on funding support from the other levels of government for a project that could run as high as $1.5 billion, said Mayor Dave Bronconnier on Monday.

"We're not prepared to add a potentially a billion-plus burden on taxpayers in which to fund the event," he said.

Calgary made a surprise announcement that it was interested in hosting the world fair just before a deadline in May for submissions to the federal government. At the time, city council approved spending up to $400,000 on starting a bid committee to map out ideas.

The city saw the Expo "as an opportunity to leverage" and "to accelerate the redevelopment of the west end of downtown," said the mayor, but soon realized it was not financially sustainable.

Ald. Joe Connolly wasn't convinced dropping the bid should have been so final.

"The reason I'm disappointed is they did not present a complete business case to us in-camera. If you look at a business case and they have a big fat zero next beside the province's contribution and a big fat zero beside the federal contribution. You may consider that that is incomplete," said Connolly on Monday.

"My peers got scared off by a big number. That's what happened. But I'm not very happy about it."

Each country can submit only one city to represent its bid.

Calgary's withdrawal leaves Edmonton as the only Canadian city vying to host the event.

The City of Edmonton started work on its Expo 2017 bid in the fall of 2007 when it approved work on a preliminary study. In October, city council officially gave the go-ahead to start detailed work on a bid.

Calgary spent $5.5 million between 1995 and 1997 promoting its bid for the 2005 Expo, which was awarded to Nagoya, Japan.

West Village plans unveiled

In abandoning the Expo plan however, city council voted to push ahead on redeveloping what would have been the exposition site in the west end of downtown, to be called the West Village.

Over the next 25 years, city planners hope to develop 111 acres of land between 11th Street S.W. to Crowchild Trail, and the Bow River south to the CP Rail tracks.

The plan would see the light industrial area, currently home to car lots and bus terminals, transformed into:

  • Highrise towers and condos for 12,000 people.
  • Parks.
  • A site for the Alberta College of Art & Design.
  • A land bridge connecting a new Sunalta C-Train station.

"This is some of the most valuable and strategically important land in Calgary: downtown real estate, right on the Bow River, right next to a new LRT station," said Bronconnier in a news release.

The city already owns much of the land, some of which is contaminated with creosote and needs to be remediated. There's no word yet on who might be interested in buying or building in the West Village.