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Hillhurst Sunnyside does a deep dive into the community’s history

It’s taken eight years for Hillhurst Sunnyside and Lorna Cordeiro to get to this point.

That’s a bit of history in itself.

The idea for a Hillhurst Sunnyside historical context document was first discussed in 2014, Cordeiro said. Cordeiro, who is part of the heritage sub-committee for the community, said she had talked with a former City of Calgary senior heritage planner at that time.

“The reason he suggested it is, he said, ‘if you want to be able to clearly articulate what’s important in terms of heritage elements in your community, it needs to be documented,’” she said.

“We had some documentation, but nothing comprehensive.”

The idea was there, but now the 148-page deep dive into the community’s history had to get built.

Cordeiro said it took a while to process potential ideas on how to get it done. She figured it made sense, given the area’s history, but she also knew there would be a cost attached.

Then the idea came from one of Hillhurst Sunnyside’s former members of the planning committee – go to developers for help. Many of them were benefitting from the area’s redevelopment and densification, so perhaps they’d be interested in pitching in.

Once the funds were in place, they recruited the expertise of Heritage Calgary, and the creation was underway.

Today, they have a document that reaches as far back as glacial activity in the area. The bulk of it covers the last 150 years.

Value of a historical context document

Cordeiro said the document has two underlying values.

First, raising awareness of the area’s history and having it documented is important. Much of the area’s history has been lost over the past century.

“The second value is what are we going to do with that information now?” Cordeiro said.

They now have a document that highlights what is and was important, and what can still be commemorated or brought to life.

“I think that’s equally important,” she said.

Cordeiro said that heritage was included in the area’s prior redevelopment plan. Very little of what it promoted actually came to fruition, she said.  That’s where they hope they can change things.

They’d like to see this document as a handy tool as the area goes through the Riley Communities Local Area Plan process.

The community would also like to take the area’s identified heritage resources and determine which should receive heritage designation. They also would like to incorporate interpretive or commemorative elements.

Community understanding

Heritage Calgary CEO Josh Traptow said that they’ve worked on a handful of the community context documents for other neighbourhoods.

“It’s a really good way to involve the community in understanding the history of their neighbourhood,” he said.

Traptow also believes it will be a useful tool during the local area planning process. Dozens of Calgary communities will be going through these over the next several years. They’ve encouraged the city to consider the context papers as the local area planning process takes hold in an area.

“I think context papers will be an important tool moving forward, not only for communities to understand the history of their neighbourhood, but also potential ways to commemorate their history in future developments,” he said.

Overall, Traptow said it’s a great education and awareness tool. It’s a great way for community members to coalesce around an area’s history and heritage.

It’s an ongoing struggle to maintain the city’s history, and this is a good way to do it.  There’s no municipal museum, Traptow said. Calgary’s history is split between the Glenbow, the Calgary Public Library and the University of Calgary.

“Any time we can record and document the history of communities, it’s a good thing,” he said.

HSCA Historical Context Document by Darren Krause on Scribd