Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Calgary economy to lead the country in 2012
3.7% growth this year
By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald February 22, 2011

CALGARY - Calgary's economy will regain its place as one of the fastest growing census metropolitan areas in Canada over the next two years, says the Conference Board of Canada.

In its Metropolitan Outlook Winter 2011 edition, the board says "the continued recovery in the energy sector will boost economic growth by 3.7 per cent in 2011 and above four per cent the following year, placing Calgary at the top of the growth leaderboard in 2012."

But the board says Canada's slowing economy will weigh on growth in most of the 27 census metropolitan areas across the country. Only Windsor, Calgary, Oshawa, Regina, Saskatoon, London, Sherbrooke, Winnipeg, and Thunder Bay can expect higher real gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year than in 2010.

"Most Canadian cities rebounded well from the recession. This year, however, a weaker domestic economy, winding down of federal and provincial government stimulus measures, and uncertain economic conditions in the United States will result in stable or lower growth in a majority of cities," said Mario Lefebvre, Director, Centre for Municipal Studies, at the conference board.

Windsor is forecast to post the fastest growing metropolitan economy in 2011. Real GDP is forecast to rise 3.9 per cent this year.

The board says Regina's economy will benefit from the provincial resource boom and enjoy growth of 3.5 per cent in 2011. "This growth will support employment increases and, in turn, maintain in-migration and demand for housing."

It says Saskatoon is poised to regain its position as one of Canada's fastest-growing CMAs in 2011, with GDP forecast to rise 3.4 per cent. "Saskatoon's construction sector is expected to grow robustly through the medium term, and residential construction will continue to fuel activity in the finance, insurance, and real estate sector."

And the board says higher oil prices helped boost Edmonton's economy by 3.7 per cent in 2010. While GDP growth will moderate to 2.6 per cent in 2011, the CMA's economy is expected to grow by four per cent in 2012.

Photo By: Daniel MacDonald

Monday, February 7, 2011


Get ready for rebound
Realtors say market in 2010 under-performed
By Marty Hope, Calgary Herald
February 5, 2011

"Under-performed" was the phrase used by both the outgoing and incoming presidents of the Calgary Real Estate Board to describe last year's resale market.

But both current president Sano Stante and his 2010 counterpart, Diane Scott, are calling for a revival in sales activity this year based on stronger job and migration growth.

Single-family housing underwent some interesting trends last year, says CREB:

- Annual sales in Calgary's four quadrants totalled 12,094, down from 14,438 in 2009. "Undoubtedly, housing markets in Alberta and Calgary under-performed in 2010 as sales did not materialize as forecast," Scott said in her final news release last year.

- The board's Zone A, which roughly corresponds to northwest Calgary, was the busiest of the four zones in 2010 at 4,300 sales, down from 5,270 the previous year.

- The two most active communities in the city -- for the second year in a row -- were Tuscany and Coventry Hills in the northwest.

In 2010, Tuscany had 359 sales, with Coventry Hills 278. A year earlier, Coventry Hills had 426 sales, while Tuscany had 422.

- The most affordable community in Calgary last year was Falconridge in the northeast, where the average price for homes was $238,586. A year earlier, West Dover, in the southeast held that honour with an average of $221,125.

- At the other end of the price scale, BelAire had the highest average price at $1.79 million last year -- replacing Roxboro, which topped the list in 2009 at $1.8 million.

- In 2010, there were 13 communities across the city in which the average price was more than $1 million. In 2009, there were nine.

Calgary resale homes
2010 2009

Sales P rice Sales Price

- Zone A (N. W.) 4,300 $468,969 5,270 $449,057

- ZoneB(N. E.) 1,912 $296,231 2,184 $297,428

- Zone C (S. W.) 3,480 $570,649 4,163 $530,305

- ZoneD(S. E.) 2,402 $419,819 2,821 $412,072


Inside the world's first billion-dollar home
Matt Woolsey, Forbes 
Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011

While visiting New York in 2005, Nita Ambani was in the spa at the Mandarin Oriental New York, overlooking Central Park. The contemporary Asian interiors struck her just so, and prompted her to inquire about the designer.

Nita Ambani was no ordinary tourist. She is married to Mukesh Ambani, head of Mumbai, India-based petrochemical giant Reliance Industries, and the fifth richest man in the world. (Lakshmi Mittal, ranked fourth, is an Indian citizen, but a resident of the U.K.)

Forbes estimated Ambani's net worth at $43-billion in March. Reliance Industries was founded by Mukesh's father, Dhirubhai Ambani, in 1966, and is India's most valuable firm by market capitalization. The couple, who have three children, currently live in a 22-story Mumbai tower that the family has spent years remodeling to meet its needs.

Like many families with the means to do so, the Ambanis wanted to build a custom home. They consulted with architecture firms Perkins + Will and Hirsch Bedner Associates, the designers behind the Mandarin Oriental, based in Dallas and Los Angeles, respectively. Plans were then drawn up for what will be the world's largest and most expensive home: a 27-story skyscraper in downtown Mumbai with a cost nearing $2 billion, says Thomas Johnson, director of marketing at Hirsch Bedner Associates. The architects and designers are creating as they go, altering floor plans, design elements and concepts as the building is constructed.

The only remotely comparable high-rise property currently on the market is the $70 million triplex penthouse at the Pierre Hotel in New York, designed to resemble a French chateau, and climbing 525 feet in the air. When the Ambani residence is finished in January, completing a four-year process, it will be 550 feet high with 400,000 square feet of interior space.

The home will cost more than a hotel or high-rise of similar size because of its custom measurements and fittings: A hotel or condominium has a common layout, replicated on every floor, and uses the same materials throughout the building (such as door handles, floors, lamps and window treatments).

The Ambani home, called Antilla, differs in that no two floors are alike in either plans or materials used. At the request of Nita Ambani, say the designers, if a metal, wood or crystal is part of the ninth-floor design, it shouldn't be used on the eleventh floor, for example. The idea is to blend styles and architectural elements so spaces give the feel of consistency, but without repetition.

Antilla's shape is based on Vaastu, an Indian tradition much like Feng Shui that is said to move energy beneficially through the building by strategically placing materials, rooms and objects.

Atop six stories of parking lots, Antilla's living quarters begin at a lobby with nine elevators, as well as several storage rooms and lounges. Down dual stairways with silver-covered railings is a large ballroom with 80% of its ceiling covered in crystal chandeliers. It features a retractable showcase for pieces of art, a mount of LCD monitors and embedded speakers, as well as stages for entertainment. The hall opens to an indoor/outdoor bar, green rooms, powder rooms and allows access to a nearby "entourage room" for security guards and assistants to relax.

Ambani plans to occasionally use the residence for corporate entertainment, and the family wants the look and feel of the home's interior to be distinctly Indian; 85% of the materials and labor will come from outside the U.S., most of it from India.

Where possible, the designers say, whether it's for the silver railings, crystal chandeliers, woven area rugs or steel support beams, the Ambanis are using Indian companies, contractors, craftsmen and materials firms. Elements of Indian culture juxtapose newer designs. For example, the sinks in a lounge extending off the entertainment level, which features a movie theater and wine room, are shaped like ginkgo leaves (native to India) with the stem extending to the faucet to guide the water into the basin.

On the health level, local plants decorate the outdoor patio near the swimming pool and yoga studio. The floor also features an ice room where residents and guests can escape the Mumbai heat to a small, cooled chamber dusted by man-made snow flurries.

For more temperate days, the family will enjoy a four-story open garden. In profile, the rebar-enforced beams form a "W" shape that supports the upper two-thirds of the building while creating an open-air atrium of gardens, flowers and lawns. Gardens, whether hanging hydroponic plants, or fixed trees, are a critical part of the building's exterior adornment but also serve a purpose: The plants act as an energy-saving device by absorbing sunlight, thus deflecting it from the living spaces and making it easier to keep the interior cool in summer and warm in winter. An internal core space on the garden level contains entertaining rooms and balconies that clear the tree line and offer views of downtown Mumbai.

The top floors of entertaining space, where Ambani plans to host business guests (or just relax) offer panoramic views of the Arabian Sea.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Stampede mainstreet retail development moving forward
Leasing activity for the project picking up
Calgary Herald February 2, 2011

CALGARY - A turnaround in the local economy has the Calgary Stampede's mainstreet retail and entertainment development back on track as leasing for the project has picked up in recent months, the Herald has learned.

Alberta Development Partners Inc., based in Denver, is working on the mainstreet project along the current Olympic Way that leads into Stampede Park and will include Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant. Prior to this year's Stampede an announcement is expected on a construction start date for the project, which had been delayed due to the recent recession.

"We've had a couple of years here dealing with the downturn that slowed things down," Bryan McFarland, principal-development of Alberta Development Partners Inc., told the Herald.

"Things are now swinging back the other direction in a much more positive way. We're seeing some significant (activity) in the lease-up velocity for the retail space. We're encouraged to have this project moving forward this year to be able to announce some concrete financing and delivery milestones."

McFarland said the development permit was submitted with the city a long time ago but the company has stayed in touch with the city on a regular basis about the project.

On its website, Alberta Development Partners describes the project as a mixed-use development that will provide daily shopping, dining, socializing, learning, entertaining and hospitality experiences. Stampede Trail will preserve and advance the Calgary Stampede's western heritage and values, it says.

"Grand amenities will create a procession of activity all along Stampede Trail and will include a fire pit, architectural monuments, chiming carillon bells, a dramatic sculpture fountain, a plaza for gathering and majestic entry gateways," says the website.

Eventual plans for the 6.5 hectares include 150,000 square feet of retail space, 100,000 square feet of office space and a 300-room hotel, says the company on its website.

"Probably a new deal comes across our desk every couple of weeks which really has picked up over the last six months," added McFarland. "It's been strong. We've got 150,000 square feet of retail space. Of that I'd say we've got about half of that under binding offer right now.

"I would expect ... that we'll have some announcements here to make prior to Stampede about the final schedule, the actual construction start date and opening dates."

Warren Connell vice-president of park development and operations for the Calgary Stampede, said mainstreet is a critical piece of the organization's master plan.

He said that in the world of tourism a common mistake is that places gear developments towards tourists when in reality tourists go to the places where the locals want to hang out.

"And the whole idea of mainstreet is that it is a place where Calgarians will bring their guests and visitors as well as themselves," he said.

Michael Kehoe, an Alberta-based retail specialist with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate Inc., said the proposed Stampede Trail retail and restaurant project will be an important part of the overall Stampede Park redevelopment.

"The shoppertainment/eatertainment formula on this scale is unproven in Western Canada. However I feel that the critical mass of year-round entertainment and sports events generating foot traffic at the Scotiabank Saddledome and the adjacent BMO Conference Centre will ensure that the project will be viable over the long term."