The Calgary Heritage Initiative (CHI) has developed this response to media reports of Arlington Street Investments’ purchase of 42 buildings for a new Calgary High Street along 17th Ave SW.

CBC Calgary Developer Buys 17th Ave buildings April 11 2018

RENX Arlington Buys 42 Buildings for High Street April 5 2018

It is alarming that several projects like this, collectively referred to by Arlington’s President Frank Lonardelli as an Urban Master Plan, could be unfolding without full public transparency. The reaction to CHI’s social media posts is evidence that in the absence of disclosure, conjecture abounds. Some hard questions need to be asked before we, or any of the other stakeholder groups, can respond properly to Arlington’s proposal(s).  Stakeholders include the nearby residents, community associations, 17th Ave businesses, patrons, the tourism industry and others; not just heritage advocates.

CHI estimates that there are some 150 buildings on 17th Avenue between McLeod Tr S and one block east of 14th St SW. If Arlington Investments owns 42 of these buildings, that’s over one fourth of 17th Ave. CHI considers that as many as 25 of the 150 buildings are character buildings, and of these, 11 are listed on the City’s Inventory of Historic Resources. One such listed building was the Jalland block, a unique, 1907 Dutch Colonial Revival building. It was the first to be demolished along with a mature boulevard tree, to make way for the first of Arlington’s projects. The Jalland, on a highly visible corner of 5th St and 17th Ave,  was also identified as one of the “Special Place” heritage buildings in the 2008 City of Calgary Approved 17 Avenue SW Urban Plan.

  1. What does the Jalland’s demolition signal for other character buildings among the 42 owned by Arlington, and which of these will be considered for preservation and inclusion in their High Street plan? CHI is particularly concerned with the potential loss of the mid- century Condon Building and The Jacques Funeral home (Spanish Colonial Revival style, 1937), both on the Inventory of Historic Resources, as well as the 800 Block of 17th Ave, a historic streetscape with turn of the century converted homes and the Buon Giorno restaurant. In 2016, Arlington’s acquisition  of this restaurant was touted as Preserving a Little Bit of 17th Avenue History. Keeping a restaurant open in the short term with different operators is not heritage preservation.
  2. Arlington’s website describes concepts for 5 individual projects along 17th Ave (e.g. “ASI HIGHSTREET”, the 800 Block of 17 Ave SW, is just one project), however it is unclear how many of the 42 buildings acquired will be affected by these vaguely described plans. Mr. Lonardelli mentioned 8 projects in an interview the CBC’s Eyeopener on April 11th. What plans are in the works for other projects to account for all 42 buildings?  
  3. How is Arlington Street responding to the 17th Ave SW Urban Design Strategy and specifically to this statement? “There currently exists a need within this portion of 17 Avenue SW to define and identify the character of the avenue so that it can be preserved and enhanced through future development. This avenue has been identified by the Centre City Plan as a High Street, typically found in areas with historic character….”
  4. If this strategy is being followed, why was the boulevard tree and the Jalland Block a recognized (though not designated) heritage building, the first to go?
  5. What are the public realm components of Arlington’s High Street projects on 17th Ave SW?
  6. Why is this stretch of 17th Ave SW amongst the low priority group of the City’s 33 Main Street’s Program when lands are being assembled on such a large scale and development is underway?  
  7. Is there a public engagement plan for this Urban Main Street? Mr. Lonardelli did not speak to stakeholder engagement in the April 11th Eyeopener interview.

Based on what we know now, this feels like a series of one-off projects, not an Urban Master Plan. A critical High Street such as this deserves full transparency and public engagement. It’s about character and the sometimes-intangible relationship of our streetscapes to the past, present and future.

We can only imagine hosting a walking tour of 17th Ave in 10 years time:

Stop 1: This used to be a rare Dutch Colonial building, built in 1907 by the Jalland brothers, operators of a construction and real estate business. In October 1912, it was the scene of a double murder suicide. Now it is a mixed-use retail/condo building with an outdoor summer patio built by Arlington Investments.

Stop 2: The 800 Block used to be a series of century old modest homes and grocers, reminiscent of what High Streets once were in Calgary.  Now it is a mixed-use retail/condo building with an outdoor summer patio built by Arlington Investments.

Stop 3: This used to be the space-age, mid-century Condon building, named for sports promotor and philanthropist Jimmy Condon. It neatly bookended the downtown with the Calgary Tower, completed one year later, to the east.  Now it is a mixed-use retail/condo building with an outdoor summer patio built by Arlington Investments… you get the picture.

We can and should do better. Our communities evolve over time and that evolution is guided by policies and standards that help shape and define the look, feel and character of the community.  See the presentation slides from the Partners in Planning (PIP) Elective Course : Urban Design and Character: Mainstreets Streetscapes and Heritage, sponsored by the Federation of Calgary Communities on March 10, 2018.

We would welcome an opportunity to meet with Arlington Street, other stakeholder groups, the Ward 8 Councillor, and City Planners to gain an understanding of Arlington’s High Street projects in order to provide constructive comments to this Urban High Street Master Plan.

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The 5th St and 17th Ave Streetscape Before

Demolished 5th St Site After