OPINION: Let’s create a Calgary historical home preservation foundation

Richard White suggests a possible foundation to buy up and preserve older Calgary homes

Lorna Cordeiro applied for historic designation on her 110-year-old home in Hillhurst. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

For many years now, I’ve been listening to a Calgarians lament about how the monster new infill homes are destroying our inner-city neighbourhoods by demolishing the tiny cottage homes.

They want the City of Calgary to do something about it.

And while I too regret the loss of some of the nicer older homes, I also realize these new monster homes are what will allow our inner-city communities to thrive.

They have the space and bells and whistles parents of young families want in a home.  It’s these young families that will help older neighbourhoods evolve from 20th Century communities into vibrant 21st Century ones.

They will repopulate our inner-city schools. (The same people who worry about the closure of inner-city schools are often the same ones who want to preserve the outdated homes).  They will help upgrade our playgrounds, parks, community centers and rejuvenate tired, old neighbourhood main streets. 

But, let’s face reality. Parents of young families want bigger houses. They aren’t going to live in an old, two-bedroom, 1,000 +/- square foot home with no closet space, no ensuite and no kitchen space.

Some will, but those families make up a small percentage.  

Want to save them? Create a preservation foundation

In my opinion, what the heritage home preservationists need to do is form a foundation.

They could buy up older homes, maintain them and then rent them out. 

Perhaps they could do something like Parks Foundation Calgary. They raise funds to provide Calgarians with enhanced parks and amateur sports facilities.  Is this something the existing Century Homes or Heritage Calgary groups might do?

They could identify significant heritage homes or blocks of homes and work with the current owners on a purchase when they’re ready to move.  This way, they could ensure the homes would be preserved for future generations. 

It’s not too late, either. In my daily walks of Calgary’s inner-city neighbourhoods, there are thousands of pre-’70s homes a hypothetical Calgary Historical Home Preservation Foundation could purchase. A recent walk in Inglewood, behind the historic Colonel Walker School, there were so many older homes I felt like I was in a rural village in the 1950s. 

A few years ago while hanging out in Vancouver, I discovered Mole Hill Community Housing Society. It’s a block of preserved Victorian and Edwardian homes across from Nelson Park.  There are 35 heritage homes on the block that offers 170 social housing suites. It also has three daycares and a group home in a park-like setting. 

It’s quite remarkable.  I would often walk two or three blocks out of my way just to wander by or through Mole Hill. 

Vancouver has several housing cooperatives like Mole Hill that have successfully preserved heritage homes. 

This could be another model Calgary preservationist to pursue to ensure some of our older outdated homes are preserved. 

Last Word

In my opinion, it isn’t the City responsibility to preserve heritage homes, it is ours.

While the city did help with tax breaks to encourage the preservation of historic homes, more should be done.

Therefore it’s time to put thought into creative ways of preserving this city’s past residential architecture.

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