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First Nations group leads massive Taza development in Alberta

Russell Hixson
First Nations group leads massive Taza development in Alberta
CANDEREL — A rendering shows Taza, a massive development in Calgary that includes several villages.

The massive Taza development in Calgary is looking to put First Nations front and centre.

The project is located on 1,200 acres of Tsuut’ina land and consists of three development Villages — Taza Park, Taza Crossing and Taza Exchange — that are integrated through a comprehensive framework of Tsuut’ina and City of Calgary infrastructure. The villages are physically connected via the Tsuut’ina Trail, which is part of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road.

The project team has officially broken ground on the next village and announced the next round of anchor tenants at Taza Park, Metro Ford and Big 4 Motors, who are slated to move in for the fall of 2022.

Taza Park encompasses 530 acres with a planned dynamic mixed-use community of retail, office and residential, including recreation and entertainment destinations. A future pedestrian-friendly Market Street is planned to enhance shopping, dining and social activities in the village.

The Province of Alberta estimated the project value to be $4.5 billion. While construction of the massive, multi-park Taza development has been underway for several years, it has been envisioned by the Tsuut’ina Nation for decades.

“The nation has been looking at economic development at this scale since the early 1970s,” said Bryce Starlight, vice-president of development for the Taza project. “One of the challenges or opportunities was that we wanted to find the right partner and work towards a long-term, sustainable development.”

He explained the nation didn’t want to be a passive part of the process and took its time waiting for the right opportunity.

“At the end of the day the nation has always taken pride in being progressive and taking ownership and participating in anything it does,” said Starlight. “A lot of the offers were for us to sit back and let someone else develop while we get a percentage. But the nation wanted to take ownership in the development planning and execution. That’s where we needed the right partner who shared those values to ensure that this isn’t just another Calgary suburb.”

The nation decided to partner on the project with Canderel, a Canadian real estate developer and investor.

Starlight said while the nation wanted the development to represent its culture and values, they have been taking care to avoid what he called a “beads and feathers” approach which just slaps Indigenous designs on the side of a building.

“We wanted the values of the nation to carry through with visual representation, language adoption, contractor participation, employment and long-term growth benefits,” said Starlight. “It is not just about dollars and cents and the payout. It’s about enabling members to be self-sufficient and enabling the community to thrive.”

Starlight said the Taza team developed a set of design guidelines for tenants and other participants that communicated the nation’s culture and values. The team has also been working with Indigenous artists, storytellers and elders to provide input.

The timeline for building out the full project will take time. Starlight said the nation is looking at 20 to 30 years before it is fully completed but don’t have firm milestones.

“It will be governed by market absorption and we won’t have a hard and fast timeline, but at the same time we don’t want to see it come to a screeching halt,” said Starlight. “There will always be growth and opportunities but it’s just a matter of pursing the right ones.”

He hopes the project can help inspire other Indigenous groups looking at advancing large-scale developments.

“We are seeing a lot of things being done right here and we always welcome the opportunity to look at supporting other Indigenous communities,” he said.

The project also provides an opportunity to educate Albertans about the nation.

“We would not be doing our job if there wasn’t an element of learning, growth and sharing our knowledge and experience,” said Starlight. “It is imperative for us and is even part of our bottom line. We need to see people learning about what we do and why we do it.”


Follow the author on Twitter @RussellReports.

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