The UrbanCSA took a trip to Banff about a week ago. In Banff we had a presentation and a tour of the downtown by the Senior City Planner Darren Enns. It was quite interesting. We learned a lot about planning in a tourist location, the frustrations and the highlights, but all in all I think we can clearly say that being a planner in Banff would definitely be pretty awesome. Here are some of the highlights…
The first stop we made was in the town hall building where we got a presentation by Mr. Enns. The town hall building is actually really neat. It was a collaborative project done by two Calgarian architecture firms: Manasc Isaac Architectures, and Sturgess Architecture. It is a high performance building, which is “twice as efficient as a contemporary conventional building” (Manasc Isaac, 2011), and they also used local materials in the construction of it. It’s pretty nice to see a sustainable town hall… It is also a very modern looking building that sill contends to the authentic Banff experience with this very woodsy timber framing maintaining a sense of cohesiveness to the rest of the downtown.
As noted by Enns, all of the policies, and planning documents not only have to go through council but also must go through the Federal Government, since Banff is situated in a National Park. This makes passing any major plans incredibly difficult. Thought it was difficult in Calgary! Try working with the Feds.
Some of the restrictions that Banff has to face because they are situation in a National Park include: their population cannot grow more than 10,000 people, and their commercial space cannot grow more than a certain amount every year (I don’t remember the exact number …but it is quite small). This makes land rent in the downtown commercial district very expensive. Large stores in the downtown are uncommon because of this. Some stores and restaurants have to continually reinvent themselves and sell off some of their commercial space to remain competitive. What this means for Banff is that they get small little retail stores, and coffee shops in their downtown instead of big box retailers. I donno… I think they’re cute and cozy myself.
Here is a picture of Feast, a new artisan grocery (don’t really know what that means, but I’m sure it’s tasty!) The two doors is the total width of the store—demonstrating the dividing up of the commercial space into smaller and smaller chunks.
One of the current major initiatives that the city has been working on is the outer façade of the commercial district in the downtown. They want to make sure that they maintain the authentic feel of Banff. Some of the initiatives are that they are getting ride of fluorescent and backlit signs for traditional wooden signs and keeping with a wooden timber structure.
Here is one of the buildings upgrading their façade to keep with the Banff woodsy feel.
We ended off our tour at the Dancing Sasquatch, this sweet new club in Banff. There we met up with the owners of the club, one who just so happen to be a council member Councillor Stavros Karlos. He gave us a first hand account of what the food and beverage industry is like in Banff. This club is actually one of the nicest and cleanest clubs I’ve been in. The whole idea of the club is to give visitors to Banff an experience they can’t get at anywhere else. To enter the club you have to go through what seems like an underground mining shaft, just like what miners would have experienced in some of the old mines around Banff. It’s pretty cool actually. The rest of the club is decorated to resemble a forest, with real trees and wood counters–contending to the woodsy, authenticity of the rest of the downtown. If you are ever in Banff, be sure to check out Dancing Sasquatch. It is definitely a unique experience!
All in all, Banff has some unique planning difficulties, many of which Calgary cannot in the least relate. In Calgary, we try our best to get large retailers to plant there stores in large shopping centers. Whereas Banff tries to remain authentic with little mom and pop stores. Even when chains go to Banff they have to change their image to keep with the authentic style. The McDonalds in Banff has a fireplace inside! Who knew they could be so classy! Banff was a great trip! Perhaps UrbanCSA will do it again next year.