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July 26, 2012 | Cody Stuart

City Approves Massive Keystone Hills Plan

Outlining the path of development for land annexed in 2007, the City of Calgary has approved a development plan for a massive section of land on the city's northern outskirts.

Sitting on 1,080 hectares bordered by 160 Ave N, Stoney Trail, 14 St NW and the expanding Calgary airport, the Keystone Hills Area Structure Plan calls for a mixed use development that will eventually be home to as many as 60,000 people and employ as many as 18,000. "It's just another step towards servicing and bringing more product for that North Central area," said Marcello Chiacchia, general manager for Genstar Development Company. "Genstar was very active in central Calgary with Panorama Hills, Coventry Hills, Harvest Hills and Country Hills. We developed a couple thousand acres in that area, and that area is coming to an end approximately by the end of next year. So this is a step closer to bringing on further product."

Already Calgary's largest ward by population (Ward 3, 96,228), the Keystone Hills Plan will bring even more development to an area that includes the city's fastest growing community. According to the most recent Calgary Civic Census, the population of Panorama Hills, grew by 2,396 in 2012, more than any other community in the city.

In addition to three separate communities, the Keystone Hills plan calls for a "major activity centre" based around a future LRT station, which would serve as "a mixeduse anchor" for the area. The plan, which was presented to the Calgary Planning Commision in April, is the first to be approved since the City adopted the Plan It Calgary document in 2009.

Plan It Calgary is the city's longterm direction for sustainable growth to accommodate the estimated 1.3 million people over the next 50 to 60 years. The plan promotes higherdensity living by encouraging communities that make it easier for residents to walk, cycle and use public transit, while still preserving open space, parks and other environmental amenities.

"Keystone Hills is structured around neighbourhoods, each of which in turn contains a Neighbourhood Activity Centre which serves the local needs of the neighbourhood. Detailed design guidelines dictate the built form and mix of land uses in the Neighbourhood Activity Centres," said John W. Hall, senior planner, Land Use Planning & Policy for The City of Calgary. "The focal point of Keystone Hills is the Major Activity Centre, which will be served by a future LRT line, and will serve as a mixed use 'downtown' for Keystone Hills and surrounding communities,
with the highest intensity of jobs and people in the area."

One of the main challenges for developers in bringing the plan for the area to fruition will be providing ample infrastructure. As of now, the area is not serviced by sanitary, storm and water utilities – which means it could be some time before the area is ready for Calgarians to move in.

"The big challenge that's affecting the industry as a whole is funding and financing of inventory infrastructure, but we've working on that along with some other developers in the area for some time now, working concurrently with the planning approval to try and figure out how that can be financed. We're not quite there yet," said Chiacchia.

"What has to happen is we still have to go through an outline plan and land use process. To get that approved is a nine to 12-month process, depending on how things work out. By the time we do engineering work and whatnot, it'll be about 2014 by the time we got some serviced land up there."

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