Curtis Block gone but not forgotten

Status of new or continuing risks to heritage sites

Moderator: newsposter

Postby newsposter » Sat Jul 12, 2008 6:27 pm

see previous page for more info on the background of this, or click the link ... ?p=365#365


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.

Janet Woolgar
Calgary Heritage Initiative Society
Last edited by newsposter on Sun Jul 20, 2008 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby newsposter » Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:23 pm

(for a longer, unpublished version see above ^)

Another piece of Calgary's history is doomed

Calgary Herald

Monday, July 14, 2008

A demolition permit was recently issued for the Curtis Block on Macleod Trail and 12th Avenue, in view of the Stampede grounds. It is listed as a Category A heritage site, which according to city policy, means it is worthy of official designation and protection.

In this case, the developer (the Torode Group) offered to preserve the first metre of the building and incorporate the facade in the new project. Prevailing voices at the city insisted on a road widening setback that apparently makes this impractical. City Transportation wanted a 5.182 metre setback, while the developer proposed four metres. Extra vehicle lanes here are unworkable and inconsistent with planning directions for the area, so 100 years of history was traded for four more feet of sidewalk.

Volunteers of the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society strive to preserve heritage buildings. Although we do not know fully why the facade could not be incorporated with the full five-metre setback, we do appreciate the developer's willingness to provide a compromise that would have preserved a slice of the heritage. We are concerned that seemingly inflexible city requirements contributed to the loss of a unique piece of Calgary's history.

Does this decision reflect council's vision for our city? In a week where we celebrate our western history, this is a sad time for our local heritage.

Janet Woolgar, Calgary

Janet Woolgar is president of the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society ... a1afaa27eb
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Postby Chris E » Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:18 pm

Demolition is underway

Photos here: ... count=3228
Chris E
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Location: Calgary

Postby newsposter » Tue Jul 15, 2008 7:27 pm

Thanks to Bigtime from the Calgary Construction thread at for these photos:


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Last complete photograph

Postby gerrystraathof » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:05 pm

By luck I was experimenting with elevation photography during the stampede. (An elevation photograph implies no real perspective along the entire image.)
You can see a much larger image by visiting my Flickr site:

This image is the result of about 70 images, all sliced to the middle fifth, and blended together. It was about two days of work to create the final piece, and it still needs a few small touches. I have two other photo sets which include better sky and road portions at higher resolutions.

The last set is 'capped' with a panorama from the corner which swings around to catch the Arriva block as well.
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Postby Pink21 » Thu Sep 03, 2009 1:49 am

Good Position on taking that pictures...What they do with that building?Are they trying to make one?or New..

Good Day!!



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Postby newsposter » Thu Sep 03, 2009 11:29 am

Sorry Pink, the Curtis block (right side of the photo above) is gone. Development plans for that site have evaporated with the downturn. It is now a parking lot for the forseeable future.
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The Curtis Block: Gone, but not forgotten

Postby cjane » Fri Jul 16, 2010 3:56 pm

On July 14, 2010, exactly 2 years after Janet Woolgar's letter to the Calgary Herald was published, CHI presented an additional principle to the Roads Rights-of-way Report to the Land Use, Planning and Transportation Committee as follows:

“Consider varying roads rights-of-way when required to protect heritage resources.”

The additional principle was passed unanimously by the Committee and inspired the Aldermen to add the following Recommendation to the Report:

"Direct Administration to include as part of its policy, to allow for flexibility in rights-of-way where heritage, historical or architecturally significant buildings are concerned."

For full details of the committee meeting minutes, refer to the following link: ... agenda#LPT.

:arrow: Note: The above was passed by City Council unanimously on July 26, 2010
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Postby Chris E » Mon Mar 28, 2011 4:08 pm

A new development plan is going to Planning Commission which would involve demolishing the Deutche-Canadier / Eastern Block.

The proposal has been recommended for refusal.

Link: ... 9_3829.pdf
Chris E
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