Heritage Calgary sounding alarm over several ‘at risk’ historic sites

Several historic buildings across Calgary are at risk because of disuse and potential redevelopment, according to an advocacy group that stewards the city’s heritage resources.

Over the next several weeks, Heritage Calgary will be highlighting seven properties in the Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources it considers potentially at risk in an effort to raise awareness of the loss of heritage buildings.

None of the seven buildings has historic designations.

“Just seeing more development in Calgary as things start to get back into that boom cycle,” Heritage Calgary CEO Josh Traptow said. “Typically in boom cycles we see more heritage at risk of being demolished.”

Read more: 2 Calgary buildings with francophone settler connection given historic designation

The list of sites considered potentially at risk by Heritage Calgary includes:

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Tuxedo Park School – 130 28 Ave NE

Condon Building – 1609 14 St SW

Balmoral Bungalow School – 223 18 Ave SW

Midnapore School – 14804 Shaw Rd SE

Education Centre Building – 515 Macleod Tr SE

Riverside Bungalow School – 711 2 Ave NE

Rossmore Apartments – 1413 2 St SW

The series of buildings will be highlighted on Heritage Calgary’s social media channels.

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Traptow said that while not all the buildings can be saved, there are other options on the table including renovation and adaptive reuse.

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Adaptive reuse is when an existing structure is updated and adapted for new uses in a new development, similar to work that took place at the King Edward School and the Nimmons residence in the city’s southwest.

According to Chris Ollenberger, the managing principal at Quantum Place Developments, there are many challenges when it comes to adapting an historic building into a new development project.

“You’ve got to find one that has good bones and can have the space that’s suitable for repurposing. And you got to have, sometimes, a lot of patience and some good financing to put it together,” Ollenberger told Global News. “But when you bring all those elements together, it’s certainly magic.”

Read more: Parts of Centre Street Bridge, Queens Hotel up for auction: Heritage Calgary

Ollenberger said there are buildings that simply can’t be renovated or adapted due to abandonment and structural issues, and that saving the facade for a new development is also an option available.

“I think we need to be open to all kinds of different possibilities, but it’s really a building-by-building assessment,” Ollenberger said. “So it’s hard to say exactly what it might take for one project or another.”

One challenge, according to Traptow, is that the owners of the buildings haven’t put forward requests for heritage designation with the City of Calgary.

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If approved, that legal protection can come with some strings in terms of what kind of development and use can happen with the property.

There are 103 buildings and structures with historic designations in Calgary including historic city hall.

“In Alberta, under the Historic Resources Act, the municipality must compensate owners if they are not in favour of designation,” Traptow said. “That’s why no municipality in Alberta will designate without the owner signing off on it.”

Traptow said he hopes city council will include residential tax credits and increased grants to encourage the preservation of heritage buildings in the upcoming budget deliberations in November.

City council is expecting a report from administration in the coming months with a more comprehensive plan to preserve heritage sites in both low density and higher density neighbourhoods.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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