The rebuilt Symons Valley Ranch Market, designed by FRANK Architecture, will anchor a new master-planned community with high-density residential, retail, medical and educational elements. Courtesy Frank Architecture

A new Symons Valley Ranch Market rises from the ashes

A project is underway to redesign and rebuild the Symons Valley Ranch Market, after a devastating fire roared through the historic building and iconic grounds in late January of this year.

“The market had become a real gathering point for the community,” said Ken Aylesworth, the market’s managing partner.

He jokingly calls himself “the head lettuce” and for good reason – he grew up just miles from Symons Valley Ranch on a working cattle ranch in Bearspaw. That’s where he fell in love with agriculture, before building a strong career in farmers-market machinations. In fact, he was the project manager who worked with the Calgary Farmers’ Market to make the move from the old Currie Barracks site to its present-day location at Blackfoot Trail and Heritage Drive.

So naturally, when he was asked to become involved with the Symons Valley Ranch Market four years ago, he jumped at the opportunity to create something unique. He and his wife Tracy – also a hands-on partner – were devastated when they watched their vision go up in smoke, as flames engulfed the century-old wooden structures on January 26.

“There was an incredible outpouring of community support to have the facility rebuilt and replaced,” said Aylesworth.

Now, almost a year later, a new vision is in the works for a master-planned community comprised of high-density residential, retail, medical and educational (plans are in the works for an agricultural college) elements, with the new 70,000-square-foot, two-level farmers market as the centrepiece of the development.

“We are very committed to making this a touchstone for the new community and for all of the surrounding communities in the northwest.” – Ken Aylesworth, Symons Valley Ranch Market managing partner

“We are very committed to making this a touchstone for the new community and for all of the surrounding communities in the northwest,” said Aylesworth.

The developer, Capexco, and the Aylesworths brought in FRANK Architecture to design the new market.

“The new market building will anchor the site and the future development surrounding it, acting as the flagship and hub of the farm-to-table movement,” said Kristen Lien, the project’s lead architect.

The building’s design nods to the ranching and farming history of the area. The long, low and expansive barn-like forms are placed in the landscape so that they capture direct views to the valley beyond, while creating a central, public plaza and entry space to the west.

Standing seam metal, accents of wood siding and board-form concrete emulate many of the historical textures seen on agriculture buildings throughout Alberta. Landscaping will highlight indigenous plants and grasses, connecting the land to the history of farming in the area, and the exterior benches will be made of reclaimed and salvaged wood from the site of the fire.

The new market will accommodate much of the previous programming from the old market, but on a larger scale. The focus of the space will be the farmers market, but it will also house dining, gathering and event spaces.

“Food has the power to bring people together, and there is something quite powerful about the honesty of the vision of the new Symons Valley Ranch Market,” said Lien.

Driving the design was the vision of creating a thoughtful and beautiful gathering space centred around food – one that would provide a hub for the community at large.

A central, outdoor plaza designed to accommodate market spill out (summer markets, outdoor Christmas markets, festivals and public gatherings) opens to the future public-park space that is planned for the area to the west of the plaza.

The vision has been so powerful that the City of Calgary and the community have rallied to bring the project to fruition in record time. Development permits are making their way to approval and Aylesworth is hopeful that they will be breaking ground on the new market in the spring of 2018.