The Blog: Creative Destruction and Calgary’s Spatial Fixes

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David Harvey theorizes that the spatial pattern of globalized capitalism can be understood in terms of spatial ‘fixes.’ Short-term reconfigurations of space become the vehicle through which problems (often related to capital accumulation) are resolved. However, this is often a contradictory process: a space that was once historically used for one phase of development is destroyed to make way for a new spatial fix to resolve a crisis. Lately I’ve been thinking about Calgary in the context of this kind of theory. I haven’t really fleshed it out yet, but here are some fun facts. They may or may not be related.

  • In 1998, following a manufactured debt crisis and subsequent province-wide budget cuts, the Calgary General Hospital in Bridgeland was demolished in a dramatic fashion. You can see the video below:
  • In a presentation at the Parkland Institute, Jordan Hamilton observed that much of the original housing stock that existed in downtown and the East Village has been demolished; over 56 structures that provided housing in the area have been destroyed or closed since 1970. You can view his presentation here at about the 30-minute mark.

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  • In a recent piece for FFWD, Drew Anderson provides a thoughtful analysis of Calgary’s housing crisis. Drew points out how financially debilitating the housing market is, and how hostile and largely ineffective the political establishment has been in foreseeing and addressing the crisis. His last paragraph is particularly insightful:

Even if we could get secondary suites approved throughout the city, there’s no guarantee it will solve our housing crisis. Will there be a flood of people building suites, saturating the market and bringing prices down? Unlikely, at least in the short term. It certainly can’t hurt, but the fact we can’t even get this Band-Aid solution through council demonstrates just how far this city still has to go in order to live up to its hype as a great place to live. Because the truth is, for vast swaths of the population, this isn’t a great place to live; it’s a place to scrape by while praying your landlord doesn’t up the rent.

Also at the Parkland Institute, John Kolkman presented his findings on poverty and inequality in Alberta. What was super disturbing about his presentation was this graph.
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  • And yeah, the bottom 50% actually have seen negative growth (down by 8%) in after-tax income growth over the last 30 years, as opposed to the 235.5% increase in income seen by Calgary’s 0.01%.
  • Lastly, a few hundred meters from the site of the former General Hospital (featured at the top of this post in a cloud of smoke), is the East Village! There are plans to build upscale condos, a shiny library, and a shiny National Music Centre there.

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 – Written by Joël Laforest. He is an Urban Studies major and frequent contributor to the UrbanCSA blog


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