Cecil hotel news

Status of new or continuing risks to heritage sites

Moderator: newsposter

Postby newsposter » Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:55 am

Dec. 12, 2008

Dear members of City Council,

On Monday December 15 you are debating the purchase of the Cecil Hotel. The Cecil, built in 1911, is on the City of Calgary’s inventory of historic resources. The Calgary Heritage Strategy, passed by City Council earlier this year, specifically calls on the City to preserve heritage buildings that it owns. A key policy (on page 37) is that the City will “serve as a role model for the creative use and adaptive re-use of City-owned heritage buildings and excellence in maintenance and restoration.”

If the City purchases the Cecil it should abide by The Calgary Heritage Strategy. Restored to a better condition, with responsible ownership, there are many good uses that the historic Cecil could serve – office space, art space, social agency space, affordable housing – and more.

We applaud the actions of the City this year to preserve a number of City-owned heritage buildings. We ask that Council also protect the Cecil and the integrity of Calgary’s keystone heritage policy. To purchase the Cecil only to demolish it would set a poor example for private sector heritage owners who are encouraged by the City to preserve historic resources.

Thank you for your consideration,

Bob van Wegen
Development Watch Director
Calgary Heritage Initiative Society
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Postby newsposter » Sat Dec 13, 2008 12:29 pm

Here is another excellent letter to Council on the Cecil from a heritage supporter. Dec 11, 2008.


Dear Messrs. Mayor, Senior Heritage Planner, and Chair of CHA,

I am writing against a demolition of the Cecil Hotel.

Like many Calgarians, I believe the Cecil has suffered for many years
because of its use & location, and I associate is mostly with
homelessness, addictions, and crime. While the Cecil is tainted by
these associations, I note the following facts:

1) The building has significant historical associations, (eg. A. E.
Cross) and is rated a category B by the CHA.

2) According to The Calgary Heritage Strategy passed by Council
recently, the Policy is to:
"Serve as a role model for the creative use and adaptive re-use of
City-owned heritage buildings and excellence in maintenance and
I spoke in favour of the Calgary Heritage Strategy at the LUPT meeting
where the Strategy was passed.

3) There are other documents. including at least the Centre City Plan
(2007) and Municipal Heritage Conservation Framework (1979) which say
essentially the same thing as the Calgary Heritage Strategy does above.

4) The City has performed an award-winning restoration of the nearby
Simmons Mattress Factory.

I would argue the following:
- A demolition of the building, once purchased, would demonstrate a lack
of integrity in the implementation of Strategy and Policy.
- A demolition of the building, especially given the current economic
environment, would not result in redevelopment in the near-to-medium
term, as we have seen following the demolition of the Curtis Block
amongst others.
- The City has an opportunity to do, again, what it did so well with the
Simmons Mattress Factory. The City has shown that it can do
award-winning restoration, provided it has sufficient will.
- Without full restoration, the City may have an even better opportunity
to place one of the many public/private non-for-profit agencies
(probably one whose mission it is to help the homeless population) in to
a "low-rent" environment. These agencies will certainly have a more
positive effect than the tavern. You can consult the City's Street
Survival Guide at
http://www.calgary.ca/docgallery/bu/cns ... _guide.pdf for a
list of these agencies.

Thank you for your consideration.

(name withheld from the web)
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Postby newsposter » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:08 am

Cecil's Future Hangs in the Balance, Herald Dec. 15, 2008

http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/new ... 11e9ad17fb


"There's no doubt it would be a benefit--and a bonus--not to have (the Cecil's current) use continue," said Chris Ollenberger, chief executive of the Calgary Municipal Land Corp., which is overseeing the redevelopment of the nearby East Village. Now, all eyes are on city council, which will decide today whether to shell out the money needed to buy the property and redevelop it.

It's believed it will cost about $10.5 million to purchase the property from owner Sam Silberman--$ 2 million more than its assessed value last year.

But a third-party appraisal recently completed for the city places an even higher value on the Cecil, according to Ald. Bob Hawkesworth.

City staff told the land and asset strategy committee the appraisal the city received just over a month ago was over the current negotiated price, he said.

But council's decision to buy the Cecil is not a certainty and a heated debate is expected.

Hawkesworth said the city has an "opportunistic chance" to acquire the downtown parcel of land, and said it's a good fit for East Village parking

Aldermen Ric McIver and Brian Pincott each argue in favour of preserving the building. But while McIver said the private sector should take over the building, fix it and maintain it, Pincott said the city has a responsibility to take ownership.

"We need to look at whether it can be restored, then put to a really good public use," Pincott said.

"I hope as a city we've matured a little bit more than bulldozing buildings for a parking lot."

But Ald. Ray Jones said it's unfair to force taxpayers to shoulder the costs, whether the building is saved or torn down. He said it makes better sense for a private developer to step in.

"I'm not sure why we have to be the answer to everything," Jones said. "If the purpose of buying the building is to turn it into a parking lot, let someone else buy it."[/b]
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Postby newsposter » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:11 am

Herald editorial, December 15 2008

http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/new ... a505d90d9c

Reclaiming the Cecil

Calgary Herald

Monday, December 15, 2008

The notoriously seedy Cecil Hotel has been a blight on Calgary for years. No one will likely shed a tear now that the city has finally shut down the drug and crime-infested tavern by revoking its business licence.

But don't think this marks the end of the headaches around all things related to this infamous East Village landmark--once a proud and bustling, working-class hotel.

Although the timing is questionable, there's little controversy in closing what police call "one of the largest open-air drug markets in the downtown core." The difficulty is in how the city handled its offer to purchase the heritage property, which goes before council today for approval.

The city put itself in a position where it was competing with the private and non-profit sector for the asset. Is it any surprise the municipal offer beat out the others, even though others may have had proposals that were a better fit with the area, such as that put in by the Calgary Drop-In&Rehab Centre?

Located next door to the Cecil, Canada's largest shelter houses as many as 1,200 homeless a night. Its bid would have partially ad-dressed the unfair charge of "warehousing" such a concentration of high-needs people, by offering affordable housing to those ready to move on.

The bid was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, the municipality made public its interest in purchasing the property, even while negotiations were underway. Such a move always runs the risk of inflating the taxpayer price. Then it negotiated through the media, threatening owner Sam Silberman with expropriation should a deal not be reached.

All citizens should be concerned about such bullying tactics, and the apparent ease in which private property can be threatened with expropriation.

So is it any wonder the timing of last week's licence suspension looks suspicious?Rightly or wrongly, it leaves the perception council acted in its own self-interest.

No doubt the police numbers are compelling.Last year, officers were called to the hotel 1,700 times--nearly five times a day --making it the most visited location in the city. Police say they were on track to record that same total again this year.

It's well known the Cecil has been a hot-bed of criminal activity for years. The surprise is in why the city didn't act sooner.

Silberman never denied he lost control of the property, which is why he wanted to sell. One wonders what options he had, though, other than to reach a deal with the city after the city ensured the Drop-In couldn't buy the hotel.

We should know the details of that deal today. And depending on the price and plans for the hotel, the city could find itself under even more criticism.

The worst case scenario would be if the city--which has already allowed so much of its heritage buildings to be destroyed--were to demolish the 1911 hotel.

Heritage activists will rightly be furious if the city pays millions of dollars just to put up a parking lot. This building, which Ald. Druh Farrell insists has little heritage value, is ranked higher than both the St. Louis Hotel and the Simmons Factory in terms of historical significance.

The latter two buildings have been preserved as part of the plan to gentrify the East Village. So should this one.

If it's time for the city to take back the Cecil Hotel, it's time for it to reclaim it to what it once was, to eliminate the scourge it has become, and to restore it to its former brick and sandstone splendour.

© The Calgary Herald 2008
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Postby newsposter » Mon Dec 15, 2008 3:50 pm

Dec 15 2008

The city will shell out $10.9-million to purchase a notorious watering hole in the hear of Calgary’s blighted East Village.

Following a closed door meeting Monday, aldermen voted to acquire the Cecil Hotel, an infamous tavern that had become a haven for drug deals and prostitution, with plans to build a parkade and potentially some residential and commercial development...

Full Story:
http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/Alberta/200 ... 57011.html
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Postby newsposter » Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:33 am

More stories of the $10.9 million Cecil purchase, Dec 16 2008

Calgary Herald
http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/new ... 394ec30ad3

excerpt: A city report said the parking authority had already targeted the Cecil site as a potential solution to an anticipated parking crunch on the downtown's east side.

Calgary Sun
http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/Alberta/200 ... 1-sun.html

excerpt: Ald. Brian Pincott attempted to delay the deal until the city has time to do a historic assessment of the property but the move was shot down after council heard there is no remaining value.

...Thank you Brian Pincott. Aldermen, City Administration, where is the report on the building's heritage value and options for preserving the Cecil? Where is the process due an inventoried heritage resource under Calgary's Heritage Strategy? Will gladly post such information.
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Postby newsposter » Wed Dec 17, 2008 8:44 am

http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/new ... 1253a8e8ee

Council looks at options for Cecil site
Kim Guttormson And Joel Kom, Calgary Herald
Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2008

With the decision to buy the Cecil Hotel a done deal, city council now turns its attention to what to do with the $11-million site it will own by early next year.

While installing parking, and possibly commercial and residential units, seems to be a leading contender--the Calgary Parking Authority had identified it as a good location -- some say that's not the only option.

"It may be a good location for a parking structure with other uses," Ald. Druh Farrell said. "There are other civic uses it could be appropriate for."

The area alderman wouldn't say what those other uses might be, but some have speculated it could also work for a new police headquarters.

Ald. Dale Hodges, who sits on the board of the Calgary Parking Authority, said the Cecil site has been high on the authority's list for future expansion.

"The parking authority has had their eye on it for quite some time," he said.

Ald. Ric McIver, who didn't want to buy the Cecil, said the city should just turn around and sell the site.

"The city already owns all kinds of land right next door and behind as part of the East Village redevelopment," he said.

McIver wants to see city staff bring ideas forward about what should be on the corner, should the city keep it.

"We spent that much money, there should be a proper planning process rather than one alderman saying what it should be used for," he said.

Ald. Joe Ceci said council was sold on the site based on its parking opportunities, adding it would be better for people to park there and then walk or take transit into downtown rather than drive the whole way.

Once the city takes ownership of the site at the end of February, it can apply for a demolition permit. Once there is written documentation that services have been shut off, a building permit for demolition can be issued.



© The Calgary Herald 2008
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Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2005 11:13 am

Postby newsposter » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:57 pm

http://www.ffwdweekly.com/article/news- ... ding-3064/

FFWD Weekly Story,City buys Cecil, plans to demolish building
Site could have 'a more positive contribution to the area,' says alderman

Published December 18, 2008 by Jeremy Klaszus in News

The city has bought the ill-reputed Cecil Hotel for $10.9 million and plans to knock the building down and build something else on the East Village site.

“I am a huge supporter of heritage preservation… but I don’t feel in this case there’s much to preserve,” says Druh Farrell, alderman for the inner-city ward that includes the Cecil site. Located metres away from the downtown Drop-In Centre, the hotel at Third St. and Fourth Ave. S.E. was the subject of about 1,700 calls to police last year alone. Earlier this month the tavern portion of the hotel lost its business licence because of risks to public safety.

Farrell says she’s celebrating the hotel’s end. “It’s a very important site,” she says. “It’s an entry way into the downtown and East Village from the northeast, and it’s been a site that’s been a blight on that part of the downtown for decades. It could have a much brighter future — a more positive contribution to the area.” She says the city is contemplating “a number of civic uses” for the site. A parkade is one of the possibilities being suggested, but Farrell says nothing’s been decided yet.
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Postby newsposter » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:58 pm

http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/new ... f0302796f4

Antiquated thinking about heritage thrives on council

Paula Arab
Calgary Herald

Thursday, December 18, 2008

If only history would stop repeating itself when it came to tearing down Calgary's heritage buildings.

But here we go again, with the Cecil Hotel. Determining the historic value of the 1911 working-class hotel, it seems, depends on whom you ask.

Ald. Druh Farrell--and apparently most of council--are convinced there's not much there. They're prepared to use $10.9 million of public money to buy the building just to bulldoze it and put up a parking lot. More on that in a future column.

"I would not have suggested we tear this down if I believed there was some integrity left," insists Farrell.

"There was a big fire in the '80s, the exterior has been altered dramatically and it would cost millions and millions to restore."

The media were not allowed to listen in on the discussions, but council said it decided against saving the hotel after determining much of the heritage value was lost in the 1982 fire.

It's a tough line to swallow. Just look at the before and after pictures. Maybe the interior is gutted, but the exterior has hardly changed. It still displays traces of a once-attractive sandstone and brick treasure, lying beneath the ugly blue paint. The windows on the main floor have been filled in and the balconies removed, but other than that, it's not so different.

Besides, if there were no historic value left in the Cecil, why is it ranked a B according to the city's historic resource evaluation system? It's not the highest ranking, but it's pretty darn close. Whereas A sites are buildings that score overall points between 75 and 100, B buildings score between 60 and 74.

The policy clearly states: "Category B sites and buildings are very significant in certain respects. . . all buildings and sites in Category B are worthy of consideration for designation under the Historical Resource Act."

It's more likely council didn't want to spend the "millions" required to restore it to the gem it once was, only to be left with a building three storeys high. I guess land and density are more valuable than history, culture and character.

This sacrificing of the Cecil is a hypocritical retreat on council's so-called priority to the preservation of the city's few remaining heritage buildings.

It also represents a meddling in the private sector to solve a social problem by bulldozing the building where the social problem took place. Why not just deal with the criminal activity instead of simply relocating it down the street?

Farrell knows I don't buy her argument, so she refers me to the city's heritage expert, Darryl Cariou, whom she believes will be able to convince me the history of the Cecil is lost forever.

The only thing Cariou confirms in my mind is that council's decision to demolish this once-handsome hotel has put the city's heritage department in an extremely awkward position.

Cariou has done an amazing job raising the radar on the heritage file since being hired as senior heritage planner several years ago.

He's launched an ambitious new strategy meant to make Calgary a leader in heritage sites. And he has successfully obtained the rare designation of Municipal Historic Resource on a record-breaking number of buildings. Never before have five properties come before council at once for designation, as they did in July.

That the Cecil won't be added to the list has got to be disappointing for him. It's a tragic setback, even if he can't say that.

Every major and some minor cities in Western Canada once had a Cecil Hotel -- initially a chain built to house travellers and working men.

The Calgary Cecil included a cafe that was a popular meeting place for many years. It was then owned by A. E. Cross's Calgary Brewing & Malt Company between 1938 and 1967, and turned back into a hotel in recent years.

It's only been since then that the site has been overrun with drugs, gangs, shootings and other crime.

Luckily, the fight isn't over. Under the city's policy, the Calgary Heritage Authority has the ability to recommend designation.

They are meeting, as I write, to discuss how to proceed. Board member Donna Bloomfield says she will do what she can to save the Cecil.

"I personally like the building," she says.

"I know what it used to look like and I know what it could look like again."

She adds the "gem of a building" is structurally sound.

What a pity not everyone can see the potential for it to be restored to the visual landmark it once was.

The Cecil is one of only six such hotels left in Calgary that predate the First World War. Two others -- the King Eddy and the St. Louis--are also in the East Village.

Both have been given protection from the wrecking ball, even though the St. Louis is classified Category C --lower than the Cecil--and the Eddy is a boring, no-frills box in far worse shape, by comparison.

Such antiquated thinking on the part of council should be history.


© The Calgary Herald 2008
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Postby newsposter » Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:04 am

Below are the minutes from the December 15 Council meeting regarding the Cecil purchase. And linked here as pdfs are the decision-making documents that went to Council for the debate - these were in-camera and unavailable to the public until after the decision.

http://www.calgaryheritage.org/document ... 08-188.pdf

http://www.calgaryheritage.org/document ... 88_Att.pdf

I note that several councillors supported a proposal to do a heritage assessment of the property (which is only proper, given the Calgary Heritage Strategy recently passed by Council), but that proposal was defeated.

FILE NO: 401 4 AV SE (DMB)


The purchase is required for a parking and multi use development.


That the Land and Asset Strategy Committee recommend that Council:

1. Authorize the acquisition recommendations as outlined in Attachment 2;

2. Approve an appropriation advancement of $10.9 Million in Transportation Infrastructure Program 851 from 2010 to 2009 to facilitate this acquisition;

3. Direct that Report LAS2008-188 be forwarded as an item of urgent business to the in camera session of the 2008 December 15 Regular Meeting of Council; and

4. Direct that the Report, Attachments and Recommendations remain confidential until the conclusion of the in camera discussion pursuant to Sections 23(1)(b), 24(1)(a), 24(1)(g) and 25(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.


1. Authorize the acquisition recommendations as outlined in Attachment 2;

2. Approve an appropriation advancement of $10.9 Million in Transportation Infrastructure
Program 851 from 2010 to 2009 to facilitate this acquisition; and

3. Direct that the Report, Attachments and Recommendations remain confidential until the conclusion of the in camera discussion pursuant to Sections 23(1)(b), 24(1)(a), 24(1)(g) and 25(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

AMENDMENT, Moved by Alderman Pincott, Seconded by Alderman Hodges that Recommendation 1 contained in Report LAS2008-188 be adopted, after amendment, to attachment 2 as follows:

[b]• Page 4 of 7, subsection (2), by adding the words, “contingent upon a report from the Heritage Planner on the heritage salvageability” following the words “tenders for the demolition or removal of the improvements on the Property”.


For: Aldermen Ceci, Farrell, Hodges, McIver, Pincott and Mayor Bronconnier
Against: Aldermen Chabot, Colley-Urquhart, Connelly, Fox-Mellway, Hawkesworth, Jones, Lowe, Mar and Stevenson


Moved by Alderman Farrell, Seconded by Alderman Lowe,

That the Land and Asset Strategy Committee Recommendations contained in Report LAS2008-188 be adopted.

General Manager,
Asset Management & Capital Works


For: Aldermen Mar, Hodges, Farrell, Ceci, Chabot, Fox-Mellway, Hawkesworth, Lowe, Stevenson, Pincott and Mayor Bronconnier
Against: Aldermen Colley-Urquhart, Connelly, McIver and Jones

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Postby newsposter » Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:07 pm

The flattening of the property market and the end of the Cecil's troublesome operations now that it is in City hands appears to have cooled the rush to flatten the building itself.

At a July 17 2009 meeting of the Calgary Heritage Authority a representative of the Transportation department (they have responsibility for the building) said they have asked for an cost estimate for restoration. Hazardous materials will have to be removed no matter what, and the building could be restored to some use for a decade or more. Perhaps permanently depending on what the future brings.

Here's hoping for a better future for the Cecil, either stand-alone or as part of a new development in the future.
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Postby newsposter » Wed May 19, 2010 4:05 pm

Spaces and places for discussion
EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts’ Ledge Gallery presents

This is My Cecil

CALGARY – Local artist, Tomas Jonsson, provokes discussion featuring Calgary’s iconic Cecil Hotel and its storied past and uncertain future. Through regularly scheduled workshops at EPCOR CENTRE’s Ledge Gallery, Jonsson will work with participants to facilitate the many narratives that surround, engage or otherwise define the Cecil Hotel.

Title: This is My Cecil
Location: EPCOR CENTRE’s Ledge Gallery (on the +15 level of Centre Court)
Date: Tuesday, May 11 – Friday, May 28
Artist in attendance: 5 - 8 pm, Monday – Friday
Closing Reception: Friday, May 28, 2010

Tales of the Cecil have predominantly been negative – as a site of criminal activity, of poverty, a scourge to property values and a roadblock to urban growth and development. Jonsson challenges there are dialogues that could be initiated around this space and asks if there other possible futures for the Cecil, besides the proverbial parking lot.

This is My Cecil uses iconic elements from the building's past, both as bar, and former site of Western Canada's first German language newspaper (Der Deutches Canadianer) to create a space for discussion and narrative (re)creation.

Jonsson, who is known for his socially motivated performative work, will appeal to individuals interested in creating zines (self-published works of minority interest) and those interested in the history and future of the Cecil Hotel.

Artist Biography

As an artist, curator and writer, Tomas Jonsson is interested in issues of social agency in processes of urban growth and transformation. Tomas is pursuing a Masters in Environmental Studies at York University, with an emphasis on socially engaged planning. Tomas recently participated in the Border Cities Kolleg at the Bauhaus Institute in Dessau, Germany, where he developed projects with creative and precarious communities in Tallinn and Helsinki. Tomas is currently Programming Coordinator at EMMEDIA Gallery and Production Society in Calgary.

Media Contact:
Kerri Savage, Communications Manager
EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts
403.294.7455 ext.1476 ksavage@epcorcentre.org
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Postby newsposter » Tue May 25, 2010 5:00 pm

This relates to the above event, ongoing to May 28 ^

Cecil Hotel's future through homeless eyes
Artistic visions of shuttered hotel's future stir debate
By Bob Clark, Calgary Herald May 23, 2010

Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/Cecil+Hote ... z0ozNQu3pw
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Postby Chris E » Thu Feb 17, 2011 6:27 pm

http://www.calgarysun.com/news/alberta/ ... 04326.html

Notorious hotel's future remains in limbo

Last Updated: February 16, 2011 5:49pm

For years it staked out its territory on the corner of 4 Ave. and 3 St. S.E. — the infamous fading blue hotel and tavern known for attracting notorious crowds.

Now, despite having been shuttered by the city more than two years ago, the desolate Cecil Hotel remains seemingly untouched following its closure.

Ald. Druh Farrell, whose ward includes the building purchased by the city for $10.9 million in December of 2008, said the economic downturn put any kind of transformation on hold, meaning a plan hasn’t made it to the drawing board yet.

“Rushing projects with this economy would seem imprudent to me — I’m willing to be patient,” she said.

The hope for the site was it could become a mixed-use destination — possibly some combination of parking, residential and retail space — said Farrell.

But whether the original building can remain there or would need to be replaced is a question that’s still on the table.

Continued here: http://www.calgarysun.com/news/alberta/ ... 04326.html
Chris E
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Postby newsposter » Fri Apr 29, 2011 9:16 am

Read Tom Jonsson's essay on the Cecil at the link. Tom's "This is my Cecil" project is noted aboven in posts from May 2010. http://www.onsitereview.ca/thisismycecil/

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