How to create a new Calgary neighbourhood in 12 not-so-easy steps: Part 2

Building new communities is a risky, high stakes business that can take 25-plus years from land acquisition to completion. It isn't for the weak of heart.

It takes dozens of documents, millions of dollars and at least 8 years before construction can begin

With online tools that provide market data and sales data, giving you near-real time information, it's become much easier to track your home value. (Richard White)

(This is the second of a three-part series. To read Part 1, click here.)

Building new communities is a risky, high-stakes business that can take 25-plus years from land acquisition to completion.

This three-part series looks at the complexity of creating a new neighbourhood from beginning to end, using Brookfield Residential's new community of Livingston at the northern edge of the city as a case study.

Step #4. Creating an Area Structure Plan

The Area Structure Plan (ASP) is created in consultation with neighbouring landowners and developers, municipal services, outside servicing agencies (school boards, utility companies) and other interest groups.

The ASP includes:

  • Mix of uses.
  • Neighbourhoods.
  • Types of development.
  • Systems of transportation.
  • Population and job density.
  • Sequence of developments.
  • Provision of essential services.
  • Recreational facilities.
  • Parks and open spaces.

The ASP must be consistent with the Municipal Government Act and the Municipal Development Plan and is first taken to the city's planning commission, which decides if it is ready to go to city council for approval.

The council meeting where it is approved is a public meeting where all citizens are welcome to speak.

In the case of Livingston, the city paid for the development of the ASP. However, today the cost of producing an ASP is paid for by the developer (this includes all of the city staff time), which is then reflected in the cost of housing and leasing rates for retail and restaurants.

By now, there have been hundreds of meetings with the city, consultants, neighbours, infrastructure agencies, etc.

The costs keep adding up.…

Step #5. Creating the Growth Management Overlay

Once the ASP is approved, development still can't happen until the city determines the cost for the installation of the water, sanitation and stormwater services, along with fire and transportation facilities.

This then has to be aligned with projected city growth and future department expenditures to create a funding model, which determines when the city will budget for this infrastructure.

No development can take place until the Growth Management Overlay is lifted, which requires council's approval.

Development of a new community requires hundreds of meetings with the city, consultants, infrastructure agencies and neighbours. (Brookfield Residential)

Step #6. Creating an Outline Plan

The Outline Plan is the skeleton of any new neighbourhood as it includes:

  • Details of the phases of development.
  • Tentative maps of the various neighbourhoods.
  • The location of residential, park and commercial areas.

The Outline Plan is a final and binding document, and it involves significant discussions between the developer and the city planning team to address all foreseeable opportunities and issues to create the best plan.

The developer will often have a team of multi-disciplinary consultants (e.g., urban designers, planners, engineers, landscape architects, biophysical scientists) to help find the best solutions to meet the needs of everyone.

In Livingston's case, this step took two years, from early 2014 to December 2016.

Some of the challenges included getting the watershed drainage correct, as well as the complex transportation options, including access to Stoney Trail, LRT and bus route integration, as well as cycling routes.

Also, as a mixed-use community, it meant getting the right live, work and play areas defined, which ultimately resulted in the creation of three zones: Uptown (mixed-use town centre and main street), Midtown (more urban style, multi-family residential and row housing) and Meadows (more traditional single-family).

The planning never ends.…

Step #7. Creating a Tentative Plan

The Tentative Plan gets down to the detail of the subdivision of the land into individual lots and planning for shallow utilities, like telephone and cable lines.

It also includes the final infrastructure plans, which must meet city standards.

It is reviewed by all affected city departments as well as external representatives, such as Canada Post.

It is at this point that the new neighbourhood gets a name, as do the streets.

Brookfield Residential doesn't take the naming of new neighbourhoods lightly. A lot of thought and research happens before submitting a name to the city for approval.

Livingston is named after Sam Livingston, one of the first Calgary settlers, who introduced farming to the region and opened a school to educate his 14 children and those of his neighbours. He exemplified the pioneer spirit that defined Calgary and what Brookfield Residential envisioned for this new neighbourhood.

The streets of Livingston will have unique names that reflect other important early Calgary settlers.

Livingston is named after Sam Livingston, one of the first Calgary settlers. (Richard White)

There is also a Development Agreement that determines the levies, or fees, that developers will pay the city to cover the cost of growth.

The developer pays 100 per cent of the infrastructure costs of a new neighborhood (roads, sidewalks, water and sewer), as well as the majority of the cost for new interchanges, water treatment plants and transit, if needed.

The current payments average $443,000 per hectare.

At current rates, it is projected Livingston will result in $250 million in levies payments.

Step #8. Let the digging begin

After dozens of documents, millions of dollars and a minimum of eight years from the time of purchase, the first grading and construction can begin.

Only after all of the "deep utilities" (water, sewer and electrical) are in and have been inspected and approved by the city can the developer release lots for individual sale to homebuilders.

"To ensure commencement of development, Brookfield had to 'front-end' a significant amount of the infrastructure on behalf of the city. By the time houses started popping up in 2016, 16 years of planning and $100+ million had been invested by Brookfield Residential," says Brendan McCashin, senior development manager for the company.

(End of Part 2. Coming up in Part 3: Turning a Plan into a Community.)

Calgary: The Road Ahead is CBC Calgary's special focus on our city as it passes through the crucible of the downturn: the challenges we face, and the possible solutions as we explore what kind of Calgary we want to create. Have an idea? Email us at


Richard White

Freelance contributor

Richard White has served on the Calgary Planning Commission (Citizen at Large), the Calgary Tourism Board, the Calgary Public Art Board and the Tourism Calgary Board. He writes a blog called Everyday Tourist about the city, and has written extensively on Calgary's urban development.


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