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More Beltline history may be lost to make way for high density housing

Last Updated Jun 23, 2020 at 9:22 am MST

A shot of Williams Block in Calgary's Beltline area. (660NEWS) Lisa Grant

CALGARY (660NEWS) – A couple of century-old buildings in Calgary’s Beltline, one already evaluated by the city as a historic resource, could be bulldozed to make way for a high-density condo project.

Experts say only public input or a history-conscious developer can save them.

The popular Red’s Diner is currently at home in one of the buildings, a nearly hundred-year-old brick building known as the R.H. Williams Block at 4 Street and 15 Ave. southwest.

The structure, along with others next door, could be lost in redevelopment plans.

“It doesn’t have any designation and so we do not have the ability to prevent it from demolition,” said Carlie Ferguson, Coordinator of City Wide Policy at the City of Calgary.

According to Ferguson, there is still a chance for public input before any demolition would happen and the developer can be encouraged to preserve parts of it.

“When it’s gone, it’s gone, right?” said Jeanie Gartly.

Gartly, a heritage conservationist who evaluated the building and helped design the city’s Area Redevelopment Plan for the Beltline, says she supports increasing density but only where it makes sense.

“There’s lots of other parcels in the Beltline that provide for that density already and aren’t impacting the heritage,’ said Gartly. “Re-zoning and building all this stuff which is the same, we’re losing that connection to the history and the character that the community was built on.”

Gartly says there are three significant brick buildings on the site that’s being proposed for rezoning.

“Beautiful buildings and they’re structurally sound and solid. They’ve been taken care of, they’ve had uses in them, so why are we knocking all that down on that property where there’s both heritage value and character for the community?” said Gartly.

The Williams Block, which features a unique 45-degree corner entrance, was built in the 1920s by Robert Harold Williams, an expert ladies’ tailor who had made clothing for the queen, wife of Edward VII in England.

Josh Traptow, Executive Director of Heritage Calgary, says the building has historic value for the city and he is disappointed it may be razed.

“It’s a good example of a building built in the mid-1920s. It’s not designated as a Municipal Historic Resource and so it has no legal protection outside of being recognized on the Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources,” said Traptow.

“It’s a shame to lose a building like that. You know, we will encourage the developer of that site to consider incorporating the building as it is into a new design or save the facade and use that as well. But, at the end of the day, it’s up to the developer and the property owner,” said Traptow.

Public input has closed for the rezoning application to the city but there will be another chance if the owner applies for a development permit.