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http://www.calgaryheritage.org/CHIForum/vi ... ?p=365#365
HERITAGE LOSES OUT TO WIDER SIDEWALK
While we celebrate our western heritage past with the Calgary Stampede, sadly, we are giving up on preserving a real piece of our local history that still exits. This history is embedded in the Curtis Block, one of the last remaining heritage buildings in the area of Macleod Trail and 12th Avenue SW. Permission has been granted by the City to demolish the building because no satisfactory agreement was able to be reached between the City and the developer.
Demolition is a common sight in Calgary. This site, however, is classified as a “Category A” heritage building on the City’s heritage inventory. This means that the building holds significant historic value to our city and could be protected as an official historic resource. Often developers are not inclined to save historic buildings. We find an exception here. The Torode Group is the owner of this site. John Torode’s group’s recent efforts include preserving the Victoria Park sandstone and bungalow schools on their Arriva condo project and refurbishing the historic Dominion Bridge site in Ramsay.
The City has never officially designated a building over the wishes of its owners. Instead, additional project density and other inducements are offered to encourage the developer to participate in preservation. In this case the developer did not require additional density, but still proposed to remove the brick façade, repair it, and put it back on the new building. However there were complications. The site is in the 1-in-100 year “flow zone” for Elbow River flooding, so bylaws require the ground floor of the building to be raised above grade. City transportation also wanted a 5.182 metre road widening setback from Macleod Trail. Torode’s proposal to save the façade was apparently contingent on a 4 metre setback. The City could have relaxed this setback by the difference (1.182 meters) but declined to compromise. Hence the developer sought a demolition permit that was issued on July 2, 2008. Extra vehicle lanes at this location are impractical and inconsistent with new planning directions for the area, so the extra space will be used for pedestrian improvements.
In short 100 years of history was traded for about four feet of sidewalk.
Our group, the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society is an independent group of volunteers that tries to preserve Calgary’s heritage. We are not privy to every design or financial detail so we do not know fully why the façade can’t be incorporated with the full setback and higher ground floor, or exactly why the extra meter is so imperative to some at the City. But we do appreciate the developer’s willingness to provide a compromise that would have preserved a slice of the heritage. It is obvious that the setback requirements of the transportation department carry a lot of weight in the planning decision-making process. In this case it was apparently enough to contribute significantly to the loss of a unique piece of Calgary history within sight of the Stampede Grounds.
Should this be the case? Should it stand as the precedent? Could not a compromise have been made somewhere? Does this decision reflect City Council’s current vision for our city? In a week where we celebrate our western history, this is a sad time for built heritage.
Calgary Heritage Initiative Society