Something Old, Something New

As Calgary grows as a city, so does the need for new infrastructure, which can sometimes leave heritage buildings by the wayside.

One example is the community of Hillhurst-Sunnyside where an application has been made to rezone 13 properties in the 1100 block of Memorial Drive NW. Developing company Dobbin Group wants to use the space to construct a 70-unit project comprised of Chicago-style brownstones.

Residents in the community are concerned the development will result in busier roads while heritage buffs are concerned for the welfare of the buildings that could be demolished to make way for the development.

“It is heritage homes like this that make Hillhurst-Sunnyside such a fabulous place to visit, to enjoy and to live in. They make the neighbourhood what it is.” Cynthia Klaassen, president of the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society told the Calgary Herald.

As far as heritage, Calgary is still a fairly young city in the scheme of things.

When the North West Mounted Police deemed the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers to be the ideal place for a fort in 1875, little did they know their decision would lead to the construction of what today is a city of more than a million strong still paying homage to it’s past with a collection of heritage buildings and properties.

“It makes city life richer to have heritage buildings that are worth preserving for their own sake because, it’s a building, it’s already there, it’s useful, why get rid of it,” said Harry Sanders, Calgary Heritage Authority Historian Laureate for 2012. While Sanders admitted that might be a weak argument for maintaining heritage buildings in the city, he said heritage buildings both strengthen and make city living richer.

“In the old district like Hillhurst where these houses (that could be demolished) are, that’s a neighbourhood that started to be developed in something like 1904 so it should reflect that,” he said. “I’m not saying that everything from (100-years-ago) has to stay, but (Hillhurst) was there in 1912 so we should get to see some examples … of a house from 1912, a house from 1922 a house from 1952, it doesn’t all have to be static.

“We don’t have to pretend it’s still 1912 and we keep 1912 as sacred but if we drop that priority, if we said, ‘it’s not important to maintain heritage if it costs money’, it would just diminish the character of a neighbourhood or the city at large.”

One way of preserving heritage is incorporating old with new. Calgary’s National Music Centre, which broke ground Feb. 22, is incorporating the historic King Eddy into its design creating a blend of old and new.

“We’ve got a number of examples where we’ve done this in downtown Calgary, where we’ve worked with developers to give them — either give them more density on their site or transfer density to another site,” said Daryl Cariou, senior heritage planner with the City. “And through doing that, being able to preserve the heritage building on site so it can be done. It’s not easy to do but yes it can be done.”

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) just announced the more than 100-year-old Simmons Building will become a cultural hub of the quickly developing East Village with an announced tenancy of Charcut’s Charbar, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.

“The Simmons space is very special; it is centre-ice to the East Village redevelopment,” said Michael Brown, CMLC president and CEO. “Since Calgarians were so vocal about their desire to see it transformed into a space the public can enjoy, we undertook a very rigorous process of identifying and selecting just the right tenants. After interviewing more than 40 strong contenders, we chose the new tenant group because they – like East Village itself – are strong, distinctive, locally notable brands.”

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