Victoria Park Revisited

Once the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed, the Calgary community of Victoria Park will have a new green space for its residents.

“It’s a for sure thing, we have funding in place,” said Michelle Reid with City of Calgary Parks. “We are in the process of trying to get our development permit and we plan to start construction next summer.”

The park will be located just east of Macleod Trail between 11 and 12th Avenue SE. The bill will be split between The City and the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC). The CMLC was created in 2007 to implement and execute the Rivers District Community Revitalization Plan, a program approved by both the City and the province to “kick-start” urban renewal in Calgary.

The City-owned land where the park is set to be located was once the spot for many influential Calgary homes, and is now a span of parking lots used for events at the nearby Stampede Grounds and Scotiabank Saddledome. Of the homes that used to line 12th Avenue, only one remains, a dilapidated version of its former self.

Constructed in 1904 by Calgary business owner Enoch Sales who was also — according to a Calgary Historic Resource Evaluation form — a “leader in civic organizations”, Sales House at 314 12th Avenue SE is the last remaining pre-World War One home built in that area of Victoria Park.

Development in the southeast community was most active between 1902 and 1913 thanks to the nearby construction of the Victoria Park agriculture exhibition grounds in 1900.

“However, starting around 1913, as commercial and industrial development increasingly encroached into the neighbourhood, and as new, more elite residential subdivisions opened, many of Victoria Park’s wealthier residents began moving,” explained the evaluation form.

The home remained in the Sales family until 1940, from then on serving primarily as a multifamily residence with first eight, then 11 and finally 15 suites. Architecturally, Sales House is an example of “Free Classic” Queen Anne Revival style seen in early Calgary and features two-tiered central porches with Tuscan supports and interior features such as an open staircase and bead-and-reel molding.

Today, with boarded windows and concrete concealing its original sandstone foundation, Sales House has the opportunity for a new lease on life. The current owners of the home, New Urban Consulting, are working with the City to find a new location for Sales House one option being the new park just a few metres away. The home is currently included in the City’s design plan for the park available at Calgary.ca.

“We are working with the City of Calgary to find a new location for (Sales House) where it can be restored and enjoyed by Calgarians,” said New Urban Consulting’s Vera Ilnyckyj.

The firm’s senior managing partner Dan Van Leeuwen spoke to the importance of preserving structures such as Sales House in an interview with CBC News in Oct. 2011.

“I think in Victoria Park, unfortunately, because of the way the neighbourhood gentrified — and a lot of home became dilapidated, were used for all sorts of nefarious purposes – we’ve lost so much of it,” he said. “But if you lose all your past and heritage, you’re really saying ‘well, all we are is a brand new city’. And I don’t think that’s they way we should look at things.”

Reid explained once construction starts on the new park, it should be completed within a year.

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