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Residents want historic Ogden Block saved from Green Line demolition

Ogden residents are hoping to preserve a 110-year-old building that’s slated for demolition to make way for the Green Line.

The Millican Ogden Heritage Group, along with Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra met with media outside the Ogden Block Wednesday morning to show support for the building’s preservation.

They’re also hoping for private or non-profit support to make use of the building until this leg of the Green Line is complete. That’s anticipated in 2030.

“It seems that there are no specific plans for this actual site, and this actual portion of land isn’t necessary,” said Bonny Warbeck, chairperson for the Millican-Ogden Heritage Group.

Warbeck said that many of the other buildings on the block have already been demolished.

Initially, it was thought the specific building, home to a Chinese laundry when first opened, wasn’t historically significant because it wasn’t on the inventory of evaluated historic resources.

“The reason it wasn’t on that inventory is because an inventory has never been done in our community,” she said.

“That’s why it was overlooked. That got our group alarmed.”

Since then, more research has been done on the location. Warbeck described the historic significance of the building, including its role as a polling station for a vote on prohibition in 1915 and a location for injured WWI soldiers to heal after being treated at the Ogden Military Convalescent Hospital.

After that, it was renovated for apartment rentals but also housed an ice cream store in the 1950s and 1960s.

Anchor for their main street redevelopment

Bonny Warbeck, chairperson for the Millican-Ogden Heritage Group, outside the historic Ogden Block on April 5, 2023. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Warbeck said the Ogden community started in 1912 and this was the area’s second commercial building and the second biggest building in the community.

They’re hoping a reinvigoration would be part of the main street redevelopment.

“We’ve lost so many of our heritage buildings here,” said Warbeck.

“Now that we know we’ve got at least 120 buildings that fit the inventory, we need to start celebrating the history of this community and making people more aware of it.”

According to the Green Line team, the Ogden Block is located on lands required for the LRT line’s construction. That includes future development in the area, they said.

They also said that they’d been in regular contact with the Millican Ogden Heritage Group since 2021.

“A structural assessment in fall 2022 determined that the building could be moved to a new location, but the cost to do so would be considerable,” read a statement from the Green Line.

“To date, Green Line is not aware of any feasible plan for the future of this building or for the costs associated with bringing it up to a safe and operable condition.”

Warbeck said that they continue to work with the Green Line team to find a solution.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said they’ve done a good job of “staying the wrecking ball” to this point. The building was slated for demolition in 2021. It was delayed due to public concern and an evaluation as a historic resource.  In December 2021, it was added to the inventory of evaluated historic resources.

“I’ve gone to the Green Line team, and I’ve said, ‘look, we made a mistake,’” Carra said.

“We purchased a building that we should have been recognized as having heritage significance. It did not sit on any inventory because this is East Calgary, and it is largely forgotten.”

Potential plan to revive the building

Coun. Carra said that the area will be redeveloped as a part of the Green Line construction. It will have a station, a plaza and a tunnel to allow worker passage to the Ogden rail yard.

“This might be the best stop on the Green Line,” Carra said.

He said he’s hoping for either private investment or combined support from the non-profit sector to take the building off the Green Line team’s hands and create an adaptive use.

At least until 2030. Perhaps beyond, should someone want to buy the building. It does require work to get it back up to snuff.

Coun. Carra said they’ve had interest in the site, but nothing formal yet.

“It is one of the most historic main streets in the city, we need to make sure that we have what heritage is left, helping to give that character and tell that story,” he said.

“Let me be very clear that we would not have a city of Calgary if it was not for the Ogden shops.”

Moving forward, Carra believes the Green Line is waiting for potential proposals to determine next steps.  He said he’s determined to find a solution to save the building.

“We are going to make this happen. I’m absolutely convinced,” he said.

“I’ve told the Green Line team I will chain myself to the bulldozers.”

The Green Line statement did indicate that regardless of the outcome, they’re committed to helping share the story of the building and collaborate on ways to celebrate the history in the community.

Editor’s Note: In the initial version of the story, we had misspelled Ms. Warbeck’s name. We regret the error.