Denver Brust, vice-president internal with the Ramsay Community Association, said the decision to demolish the local seniors' centre has given the community an opportunity to more closely future development. Photo by Wil Andruschak/For CREB®Now

Ramsay seniors take next steps following demolition of historic hub

Four years after a hailstorm heavily damaged the building, the Ramsay Welcome Centre is coming down as residents begin to discuss what might replace it as part of their community hub.

The local seniors’ centre has been located on Eighth Street S.E. since the 1970s. Before that, the building was actually located in West Hillhurst before being moved across the city, explains Denver Brust, vice-president internal with the Ramsay Community Association, adding the current community hall was built next door in the 1980s.

“We started in 1979, downstairs in the community hall, and when they built the new hall, we took over the old community hall,” added Jack Matheson, a former community association president who has been secretary treasurer of the seniors’ group since 1990, noting at its height, the group had some 76 members.

“We look at this as an opportunity to look at the future.”

The centre included a pub and exercise equipment, and hosted seniors’ events until a major hailstorm caused damage in 2012.

“The City brought engineers in and realized it needed some serious structural repairs,” said Brust. “Once they looked a bit deeper, the discovered asbestos in the walls.”

Estimated costs for repairing the facility ran as high as $1 million (“Those were conservative estimates,” Brust noted), and it was decided it was less expensive to demolish the old structure.

Brust said demolition could take place as early as the end of November.

So what’s next for the area’s seniors, and for the Ramsay Community Association?

“We look at this as an opportunity to look at the future,” said Brust.

“Our community hall is getting older and we’ve had conversations with the City about future development.”

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said one potential future for the site may be more multi-use in nature, such as combining community, retail and even housing needs.

“I’m a big believer that standalone community halls that maybe have a little pub or bingo hall are not the best use of valuable public space, and they don’t really serve the needs of communities today,” he said, noting the current direction of city council is not to build standalone civic facilities, instead focusing on creating “deeply integrated” community hubs.

“These central pieces of land owned by all of us really have the opportunity to be more things to all people,” said Carra. “The more we’re able to fill that multi-use role, the more we’re able to service needs and synergize community connections.”

Carra added he’d like to see the site have some kind of revenue-generating use with the potential for housing.

The community association said the new development will include the needs of seniors in the community, and the demolition of the old structure brings Ramsay “one step closer” to this happening.

Until then, local seniors will continue to socialize in the main community hall where the whist and cribbage clubs still meet.

“We need some place like this for the seniors,” said Matheson.