Penny Lane news

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Penny Lane news

Postby Bob van Wegen » Thu Jan 12, 2006 12:45 pm

Updated August 2007.

Yet another version of the Penny Lane Towers was approved on August 9 2007. The historic Penny Lane buildings have been demolished. Material has been saved for an interpretive display and the facades were 'laser scanned' for posterity, to create a virtual reminder of the historic Penny Lane.


There is yet another altered proposal for the Penny Lane site - the third since 2002. All of the proposals involve the demolition of Penny Lane. In the fall of 2006, a group called the "Friends of Penny Lane" formed to possibly appeal the City’s approval of the ‘second’ proposal. It was a bit late to have a major impact, and the group reached an accord with the developer (noted below), to improve the "interpretative" aspects of the project. Since then, the proposal has again been redesigned and another concept submitted to the City for approval. While heritage interests have been largely dismissed in the first two go- rounds, will the third time be the charm? Stay tuned...


2002: The City approved a plan for a major office development that would demolish Penny Lane. Here is the permit from 2002 (pdf): ... 2_0377.pdf

2006: The plan was revived and updated, and approved by Calgary Planning Commission August 24, 2006. Tenants were reportedly given notice to be out of the building by February 2007, to make way for demolition. Here is the project (pdf): ... _part1.pdf

September 2006: A new ad hoc group, the Friends of Penny Lane, was formed to try to preserve some of the historic Penny Lane buildings, which were slated for demolition. The group planned to appeal that approval while they seek to convince the developer to incorporate more of the heritage structures into the new development. The group reached an accord with the developer, who agreed to enhance the heritage interpretation aspects of the project if the group dropped its appeals. See below.

Late Fall 2006: Reports that the Penny Lane project was delayed.

March 2007: The Penny Lane developers propose more changes to the project, and submit a substantially revised third proposal to the City. They also ask for a demolition permit and require tenants to move out within weeks.

:arrow: Below are media reports and other information in chronological order.

Thu, January 12, 2006

The sky's the limit
Duelling towers planned for downtown Calgary


A second office tower super-project is being planned for Calgary's downtown, with a revamped plan for Penny Lane development now exceeding 2-million sq. ft.

Developers of the site, where Penny Lane Mall and Cowboys nightclub now sit, increased the scale of a previously planned $250-million twin-tower project to match that of EnCana Corp.

Mayor Dave Bronconnier said it's more proof of the growing demand for workspace. "There is definitely a need for new office space in downtown Calgary, so I'm not surprised," he said.

The Penny Lane project consists of two towers, increased by 10 floors each to 49 and 40, and is expected to be clad in glass resembling alpine glaciers and jagged green granite.

The 8 Ave. and 5 St. S.W. structures will feature an indoor park complete with waterfall.

The height increase will place the taller of the two towers fourth on the list of Calgary's highest buildings, assuming rumours of the EnCana Tower reaching 60 storeys are true.

Calgary Downtown Association spokesman Richard White said the development just adds to Calgary's blistering pace of development.

"Calgary has more office tower construction than the rest of Canada's downtowns put together," he said.
Last edited by Bob van Wegen on Sun Oct 01, 2006 6:09 pm, edited 9 times in total.
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Postby newsposter » Wed Jul 05, 2006 8:23 am

Aldermen fighting for Penny Lane facade

Two aldermen are asking Heritage Park to step in and save Penny Lane for future generations, as a date with the wrecking ball moves closer.

Ald. Druh Farrell, with the backing of Ald. Madeleine King, says she wants Heritage Park to preserve the facade of the historic avenue as part of the park's $50-million expansion, rather than using replicas of long-lost buildings, as planned...

Read full story here (FREE): ... 68209.html

See above for more information on the project. Josh White photo below (

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Postby newsposter » Fri Jul 21, 2006 8:43 pm

Penny Lane aims for the sky as tower plans firm up

David Parker - Calgary Herald
Friday, July 21, 2006


Penny Lane Development, the Calgary-based group that owns Penny Lane, made its first application to the city in 2002 for a development permit to radically change its lands on what is known as the Penny Lane Block into a two-tower office complex...

The result will be a new development providing more than two million square feet of new downtown office inventory. The group appears ready to begin construction of the one-million-square-foot east tower right away.

The timing of the demolition of the existing buildings hasn't been definitively determined, although a time line that provides for occupancy of the east tower for the end of 2009 would mean that existing buildings would come down early next year.
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Postby Chris E » Fri Jul 21, 2006 11:00 pm

I've started a discussion thread here: ... ?p=513#513
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Postby newsposter » Sun Jul 30, 2006 11:17 am

Sat, July 29, 2006
Penny Lane preps to pack it in
UPDATED: 2006-07-29 02:17:17 MST


The waiting is over as tenants of Penny Lane received their walking papers yesterday. Six-month demolition clause documents were handed out, meaning tenants need to be out of their digs by Feb. 1 (2007).

Now, the end is in sight... It's expected the new Penny Lane (office development) will add another million square feet of office space to the downtown core.

See above for information about this development.
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Postby newsposter » Tue Aug 22, 2006 2:52 pm

Penny Lane demolition Herald article and Editorial:

Wrecking ball looms for Penny Lane
Twin towers project set to move ahead
Sean Myers, Calgary Herald
Published: Monday, August 21, 2006

The Penny Lane block may be demolished soon, after years of waiting for an office tower project to get off the ground. Penny Lane Development will seek a new development permit from the planning commission on Thursday and, according to the executive director of the Calgary Downtown Association, affected tenants have been given six months' notice. Full Story: (free access as of this posting) ... 4c257b651a

Editorial: Glass and steel lack feel

Calgary Herald
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Nobody involved with the redevelopment of the soon-to-be-razed Penny Lane appears to have read Jane Jacobs lately. Plans to demolish the nearly century-old brick Calgary buildings with their lively, inviting street-level allure, and replace them with twin office skyscrapers of green glass and black granite, run counter to everything that urban-design icon Jacobs prescribed for fostering downtown vitality.

City planners argue that the Penny Lane block, which includes old warehouses and the original Colonel Belcher hospital, have undergone so many renovations over time that little of historic merit remains there. Richard White, executive director of the Calgary Downtown Association, says, "Nice brick walls don't make it historic."

Maybe not, but nice brick walls give it the kind of flavour and ambiance, with its mix of sidewalk cafes and curb-appeal boutiques that the proposed office towers, with their sterile lobbies and bleak concrete plazas can never duplicate.

Bev Sandalack, co-ordinator of the University of Calgary's urban design program, calls Penny Lane "one of the better little pieces of street on 8th Avenue." She says it's a shame the city won't preserve streetscapes that look and work well, regardless of their heritage status.

Keeping Penny Lane would help alleviate the city's fixation on newness and make Calgary "look like a city that has been here a while," Sandalack says.

The towers' green glazed motif is supposed to be suggestive of mountain water and glaciers, but the 40- and 49-storey buildings hardly evoke turquoise jewels of lakes set among jagged snow-capped peaks. They look like folding glass closet doors that got stuck open.

"Glass is really reflective. It's not warm," says Sandalack, who thinks the city should focus on developing empty blocks, rather than razing areas that work well.

Jacobs, who died in April at 89, wrote the classic treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in which she argued that downtowns are organisms that do best when they are an eclectic mix of buildings that allow a natural urban entity to emerge on its own.

In a 2001 interview with Toronto's Metropolis Magazine, Jacobs scoffed at "this mad spree of deceptions and vandalism and waste that was called urban renewal." Sterile office towers with windswept plazas were, according to Jacobs, no way to encourage the flourishing of what she referred to as a "sidewalk ballet"; indeed, steel-and-glass behemoths were the quickest way to kill it off.

In a foreword to a later edition of her book, Jacobs wrote that vibrant cities exist "wherever downtowns are not deserted after their offices close; wherever new, fine-grained mixtures of street uses have been fostered successfully; wherever new buildings have been sensitively inserted among old ones to knit up holes and tatters in a city neighbourhood so that the mending is all but invisible."

Sadly, that doesn't appear likely to happen for Penny Lane.

© The Calgary Herald 2006
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CHI comment on the Penny Lane proposal

Postby newsposter » Thu Aug 24, 2006 2:37 pm

August 22, 2006

To the Calgary Planning Commission,

The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society would like to briefly comment on
two proposals before you on August 24: The Penny Lane development permit and the land use change for Hamilton Terrace in the Beltline.

1. Penny Lane

The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society (CHI) regrets that the developers
of the proposed new office tower project on the Penny Lane site on 8th
Avenue S.W. have not incorporated more elements of the existing historic
buildings in their plans for the new development, and we are disappointed
that the City has not required more.

Specifically, we believe that retention of some of the 8th Avenue facades
would preserve at least some of the heritage value of the Penny Lane
complex (category B on the city’s heritage inventory), while retaining a
very attractive and functional streetscape. Such action would also help to
partially overcome the considerable public concern over the loss of yet
another piece of Calgary’s heritage. Penny Lane represents one of the last
remaining downtown stands of pre-World War One buildings outside of the
Stephen Avenue National Historic District. It makes a considerable
contribution to the streetscape of 8th Avenue, our premiere downtown

The Administration report says that much of the historic value of Penny
Lane has been lost due to renovations. It seems unfair that a previous
adaptive reuse of these buildings, i.e. the creation of Penny Lane, should
be a cause for demolition given that a flexible approach to adaptive reuse
is so strongly supported today. As for the damage due to sandblasting,
repair regimes (e.g. brick-reversal) are available. It is unfortunate that
the sandblasting of buildings on the heritage inventory was allowed and
the City should consider banning the practice.

Finally, we do appreciate that this proposal is essentially an update of a
proposal that was approved in 2002 (note the Calgary Heritage Initiative
Society was founded in 2005), and we are therefore realistic about the
prospects of change at this time. Nevertheless, we hope that members of
CPC will consider this matter on August 24.

2. Hamilton Terrace LOC2006-0064

The Calgary Heritage Initiative applauds the adaptive reuse of this
Beltline rooming house, and we expressed our general support for the
change of use application in our letter of August 2, 2006 to the File
Manager, Dwayne Drobot. The Administration report calls for retention of
the building and references its potential heritage value. But the report
is implicit not explicit in asking that the heritage elements of the
building be respected in the renovation. While the details will presumably
be addressed at DP stage, it would be helpful if CPC gave clear direction
by requiring that that repair and renovation be sympathetic to the
building’s historic character.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bob van Wegen, External Director
Calgary Heritage Initiative Society

D’Arcy McGee, Member
Calgary Heritage Initiative Society


CPC Staff
Heritage Planner Darryl Cariou
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Postby newsposter » Thu Aug 24, 2006 2:39 pm

Penny Lane's fate sealed as city approves new skyscrapers

Kim Guttormson, Calgary Herald
Published: Thursday, August 24, 2006

Demolition on the Penny Lane block could begin as early as January, after the city’s planning commission approved the design of two towers on the site....

Full story (free access as of this posting): ... b92453&k=0

:arrow: See above for CHI's comment to Calgary Planning Commission.

:arrow: New August 25 commentary in the Herald

Give us, at least, heritage's facade
Irena Karshenbaum
For The Calgary Herald Friday, August 25, 2006

I was starting to feel optimistic about Calgary's heritage scene. The Lougheed mansion is flourishing, the Lougheed Building and Grand Theatre are miraculously being restored, Art Central opening its doors, the Barron Building being renovated and the Fina Building getting a retro-inspired facelift.

Add to the list the pleasant surprise of the opening of the Reader's Garden Cafe nestled quietly amid the botanical splendour of the Reader's Rock Garden in the Union Cemetery.

Maybe the powers have finally "got it" -- that a livable city contains a significant inventory of buildings from every era of its past. An eclectic mix of old and new is what makes a city interesting and what gives it character, charm and individuality.

But I was wrong. They don't get it. They insist on feeding us a steady diet of "gruel" (urban critic Jane Jacobs' favourite term), refusing to see it's about as satisfying as Hugh Hefner's silicon-enhanced Playboy bunnies. Just as Hefner built a billion-dollar empire perpetuating a fantasy of fake youth using a bevy of Barbie dolls, Calgary appears bent on creating its own youthful utopia by bulldozing everything old and replacing it with bland concrete and glass towers.

The next sacrificial lamb is the 94-year-old Penny Lane block, scheduled for demolition in the next six months to be replaced with two light green glass towers "reminiscent of mountain waters and glaciers," according to news reports. What kind of architectural snake oil is this?

So why is Penny Lane important? Conservation architect Lorne Simpson explains, "It's the collection of buildings that is historically significant." Even though Penny Lane feels like a single structure on the inside, it is actually four buildings, of real brick, all different in size, placed snuggly together.

Simpson says the turn-of-the-century streetscape is valuable: "It's almost impossible in a single personality to achieve variety and diversity and yet the palette of materials is common." Other than Stephen Avenue Walk, Calgary does not have any other examples in such good condition. Developers who understand the importance of variety and diversity and are trying to replicate the effect in neighbourhoods such as Marda Loop and McKenzie Towne, but all they've achieved is Smurfville.

So we've determined that people actually like the small town streetscape. Yet, know-it-alls are intent on force-feeding us their "gruel." Maybe I want herring and boiled potatoes with parsley (I'm Russian).

It doesn't have to be this way. Blane Hogue, executive director of Lougheed House, says the Penny Lane development could "incorporate at least the facade of the building, which they've done in the past with the Hyatt Hotel giving new life to the Neilson and Doll Blocks, Imperial Bank and Linehan buildings."

Hogue believes facadism is better than recreating a fake look, such as was done with the city parking structure, close to Penny Lane. Preserving old and intermingling it with new is famed-architect Norman Foster's modus operandi. He did it with the German Reichstag and there is hope that he'll do the same with the York Hotel for the EnCana project.
Calgary is unique in its demolition zeal. Had conservation voices prevailed over the past 50 years, Stephen Avenue Walk could have stretched all the way to Inglewood.

Instead, government and developers have left a legacy of dust, parking lots and urban decay stretching east of City Hall. By saving at least the Penny Lane facade, the city has a chance to extend Calgary's unique heritage character further west along 8th Avenue together with the Uptown, the Globe and Mewata Armoury. Why would Calgarians want to retire in a city filled with cold glass towers and franchised restaurants?

In the former Soviet Union, when the government tried to ram "gruel" down our throats, we called it propaganda. In Canada, it's called marketing.

Irena Karshenbaum lives in Calgary.
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Penny Lane Preservation Group formed

Postby newsposter » Thu Sep 07, 2006 11:51 am

A new group, the Friends of Penny Lane, has been formed to try to preserve elements of the historic Penny Lane buildings, which are slated for demolition. A two-tower development was recently approved by Calgary Planning Commission. The Group plans to appeal that approval while they seek to convince the developer to incorporate more of the heritage structures into the new development.

:arrow: For more information on the group, or to get involved, contact Irena Karshenbaum,, 669-1687.

:arrow: See above for more information on this project.

Herald Story: ... 824cf8f88e
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Postby newsposter » Sun Oct 01, 2006 6:03 pm

Friends of Penny Lane reach accord with tower developer

Report from Irena Karshenbaum, head of the Friends of Penny Lane:

In a last minute effort, a group of approximately twenty Calgarians came together to try to save the facade of Penny Lane Mall. The development appeal process was still active, but in a meeting held on Wednesday, September 6, 2006, it was decided that the best approach given the lateness of the bid was to speak to the owner of the building.

The meeting attracted some media attention and as a result, Ronald P. Mathison, the Calgary-based owner of the Penny Lane buildings, called the next morning to try to convince the group not to launch an appeal. The call lead to Mr. Mathison agreeing to meet representatives of the group at his office on Friday, September 8, 2006. At this meeting, he showed representatives of the group the development plans, which addressed the person-friendly streetscape issue, but he was not willing to save the facade of the building explaining that the brick has been badly compromised after having been sand blasted.

Over the next six days various discussions ensued with Ron Mathison giving the group his promise, as evidenced by a signed letter (to be posted - check back here), that he would agree to:

1. Laser scan the building so that the virtual reality image could be used for the benefit of future generations; (Dr. Richard Levy, professor of planning in the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary, has been asked to prepare a detailed quote for scanning the building. Information on the process here: ... y/main.htm)

2. Create a prominent heritage display using salvaged brick, sandstone, doors, windows, etc. with the help of (respected heritage architect) Lorne Simpson ( ), or if he is not available, than with the help of another restoration architect;

On the condition that the group would not launch an appeal. The group let the appeal deadline pass.

For additional information as to Mr. Mathison's commitment, please see this
Letter to the Friends of Penny Lane.
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Postby newsposter » Sun Mar 25, 2007 8:55 am

There is yet another proposal for the Penny Lane site - the third since 2002. All of the proposals involve the demoliton of Panny Lane. In the fall of 2006, a group called the "Friends of Penny Lane" formed to possibly appeal the approval of the 'second' concept. It was a bit late to have a major impact, but the group reached an accord with the developer at that time, as noted above, to improve the "interpretative" aspects of the project. Since then, the proposal has again been redesigned and another concept submitted to the City for approval. Heritage interests have been largely put aside by the City in the first two rounds, will the third time be the charm? Stay tuned...

Work to begin on $1B Penny Lane towers
to add two million sq. ft. of needed office space

Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, March 24, 2007

A billion-dollar project -- consisting of two commercial towers totalling two million square feet -- is going ahead on the site of the current Penny Lane Mall, after a new development permit and demolition permit were submitted to the city on Friday.

Full story (free link as of posting): ... 2431df&p=1

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Postby newsposter » Sun Apr 01, 2007 2:28 pm

Link to Herald article and photo thread on the last days of Penny Lane, over in the forums at

CBC: ... -lane.html
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Postby newsposter » Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:02 pm

Penny Lane demolition begins, Calgary Herald May 23 2007

"Some heavy timbers and about 40 pieces of sandstone from the complex will be saved for a historical, intrepretive display in the new towers." ... f911d78c11
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Postby newsposter » Sat Aug 04, 2007 9:08 am

Well, now that Penny Lane's gone let's hope the hole gets filled in with something acceptable. The DP for the Penny Lane towers goes to CPC on August 9, 2007 ... _part1.pdf

Penny Lane towers OK'd
Colette Derworiz, Calgary Herald
Published: Thursday, August 09, 2007

Two massive towers will soon rise from the rubble of Penny Lane Mall, after the city's planning commission cleared the way for development on the site.

Demolition of the Penny Lane block -- including popular nightspots Ceili's and Cowboys -- started in May.

But the developer still needed to secure a development permit from the city to build the two commercial towers, totaling more than two million square feet.

The 51- and 41-storey buildings -- designed to resemble mountains -- will include office, retail and restaurant space.

There will be a large indoor winter garden located between the two towers. The unique feature will be four-storeys tall and shaped like a crystal.

"It will be a great addition to downtown," said David Watson, the city's general manager of planning, development and assessment, who sits on the planning commission.

Other commission members called it "gutsy" and "elegant and sophisticated."

John Smith, vice-president of 20 Vic Office, which represents the owners of the development, said they are pleased to receive final approval for the project.

"It's going to be very striking on the skyline," he said. "The views are going to be outstanding."

Smith said that while they are still trying to secure an anchor tenant for the building, construction is slated to begin by December.

Because the permit was approved prior to upcoming changes to the city's downtown parking policy, the developer can build 100 per cent of its parking -- or 1,140 stalls -- at the site.

However, if development does not begin before the end of December, the developer would lose 50 per cent of the parking stalls to the city for a public parkade at another location.

Thursday's decision was not the first time the project was approved by the city.

A development permit for the site was originally approved in 2002 and then renewed in 2005. The project has since been redesigned, requiring the developer to reapply for another permit last August. The latest decision will allow the construction to begin.
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Postby newsposter » Fri Mar 20, 2009 11:40 am

It would be hard on preservationists if the destruction of Penny Lane was for naught, and it was left a hole in the ground due to the economy. But it does seem the project is proceeding. There is to be some interpretation of the old Penny Lane site inside the new building (see above).

The lack of confirmed tenants hasn't deterred construction on a 51-storey downtown office tower, still scheduled to rise by 2011 at the former Penny Lane Mall site...

Herald story March 14 2009: ... story.html
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