Many born-and-bred Calgarians are quick to criticize their hometown, but Jack Olson is a lifelong city booster and contributes to making it a better place through his work at Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC).
Growing up, Olson says his friends usually fell into two camps.
“They’re often defending their city, or their friends are talking about how there is nothing to do on the weekends and things like that. That was very common growing up.”
In 1991, when Olson was born, the city was half the size it is today. As he grew up, the city began to change and become more cosmopolitan. This inspired him to search for a job through which he could have an impact on the city.
“The most influential people in my life would include my grandpa, Al Jones. He was a developer,” he says. “It was always something I was interested in.”
Growing with the city
Born and raised in Calgary, Olson spent his weekends in the city, seeing it evolve into a modern and vibrant environment. He and his grandfather explored new communities, buildings, and developments, which he refers to as “assets.”
“These moments definitely influenced my decision to go into the development industry.”
In 2009, the East Village master plan was being created and Olson was interested from the moment the corporation had been created. He was in high school when he signed up for the mailing list to follow this project.
The CMLC plans and develops projects in Calgary and is responsible for projects such as the Central Library and the revitalization of the Simmons building in East Village.
Despite Olson’s belief that the organization would not want such a young employee, Jones convinced his grandson to submit his resume. Before he knew it, he was working as a brand ambassador at the corporation, which led him to his current position as a marketing coordinator.
“There was a new position opening within the marketing department at CMLC,” Olson says. “I jumped on that opportunity and that is kind of how I ended up where I am now.”
This job opportunity was a huge milestone for Olson’s career, as it was fulfilling a dream which he had from the age of 17.
Olson knew he had found his passion. This interest is continuously reinforced by his love for design, and the idea of city building.
A vision for the future
He decided to pursue urban studies, which would provide him with a basic understanding of the planning process, architecture and design, architecture history, and public engagement.
“As I moved into my professional career, I realized that there is actually a lot of opportunities for people in the city to make an impact.”
So, the land corporation team works with influential Calgarians who are dedicated to the community’s growth and vibrancy.
“Ten years ago, [East Village] was gravel parking lots and not much else. Today you go outside and it is a vibrant neighbourhood. It is our vision becoming a reality.”-Jack Olson
Unlike the naysayers, Olson believed that he could help be a part of the city’s growth. He knew the impact these new communities could have on Calgarians and the potential to put Calgary on the map globally.
“What differentiates CMLC from the other companies in the industry, and that I’ve worked for, and it’s a big reason why I’ve always felt drawn to this organization, it is that we have a long-term vision of the work that we do.”
Olson works in the marketing department, yet often gets to work alongside the development, accounting, and corporate service teams. He believes that through this collaboration, the organization becomes stronger as a team, leading to their projects’ successes.
“When you walk outside of our office, you are in the middle of East Village,” says Olson. “Ten years ago, this was gravel parking lots and not much else. Today you go outside and it is a vibrant neighbourhood. It is our vision becoming a reality.”
Hard work and recognition
Many of the corporation’s previous projects, such as the Central Library and the entirety of East Village, have been featured in Vogue Magazine and Architectural Digest.
Olson is not the only team member who is proud of their company’s accomplishments and impacts on the city. Amanda Eveson, a CMLC marketing communications team member describes the organization’s relationship as not only colleagues, but as teammates.
“We work on lots of things that contribute to the legacy of Calgary, and not too far from now I can tell my kids I was involved in lasting projects in the Calgary landscape,” says Eveson.
The company is currently developing the River District master plan, which involves the East Victoria Park plans and will guide the development of Calgary’s culture and entertainment district. This project gives Olson a fresh start to capture Calgarians’ aspirations and bring them to fruition.
“It’s a very exciting chapter for our organization,” said Olson. “It’s an opportunity to really make a big difference once again in the city.”