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Lilydale poultry plant comes down and residents are keen to see what springs up

Inglewood and Ramsay residents had been henpecking the City of Calgary for years over the remnants of a Lilydale poultry plant in their neighbourhood.  Now it’s being demolished.

Large machinery started pulling apart one of the out-buildings on Wednesday morning, as the site is prepped to handle staging and then future development for Calgary’s $5.5 billion Green Line project.

The City of Calgary took control of the former poultry processing plant site back in January 2022 after it expressed a desire to buy the land from Sofina Foods in 2017. Initially, the land will be used primarily as a staging area for Green Line construction in the area. It’s anticipated Green Line work could begin by late 2024.

Area resident Robin Tufts moved to Calgary back in 1992, and with his wife they raised two children in area. He said when they first moved in, they were told that the plant would likely be closed within five years.

“That was in ‘92. So, it’s been a long time coming,” he said.

“The fight to have the plant closed sort of defined our neighbourhood life for quite a long time.”

Even at that time, he said they envisioned a neighbourhood with less industry and more people. Still, Tufts acknowledged that the plant has played a major role in defining the neighbourhood over the years.

Dealing with all of the trucking, the noise and light pollution, dust and the odour, became a real burden for residents over the years. He said hundreds of people worked at the plant daily, bringing more traffic overall.

“I am glad to see it go because I think it’s time for the city to change and for this to be more of a residential and sort of commercial neighbourhood as opposed to an industrial neighbourhood,” Tufts said.

Green Line opportunity begins here: Green Line CEO Bhatti

Green Line CEO Darshpreet Bhatti said that it’s taken some time due to the rigorous process around preparing the plant to be demolished.  It’s expected the site demolition and preparation will continue over the next several weeks.

“This is just part of our next steps and making sure that any building that is major that needs to be moved out for construction to begin in (20)24 is done as soon as we can do it,” Bhatti said.

“Next year we will be tackling Eau Claire, which is a much bigger facility than this one. But they all need to be done so that we can make sure that lands are ready for our contractors to either use them as staging grounds or for future construction.”

Bhatti said that the tracks are only crossing a corner of this Lilydale poultry plant land. Still, they need the site for future development opportunities in the area.

“There’s lots of opportunities; the city’s been working on what possibly can come here, especially with the two stations that are north and south of this location,” Bhatti said.

Bhatti said they’re currently still negotiating with Bow Transit Connectors to lay the track for Green Line construction to start in 2024. They’ll likely have a schedule in place by late spring, early summer 2024. From there, Bhatti said it would likely take six years to complete the 18-kilometre line.  

One of the biggest motivation behind a project like this is how the neighbourhood takes shape around a large infrastructure project, Bhatti said. He said Green Line construction is just the first step.

“It’s a catalyst. The planning has to go hand-in-glove with it, and once the cities are motivated to do it, then you really start to see change,” he said.

“Many of the stations that are not in downtown, but in the southeast, they have the biggest to gain from Green Line in terms of what can happen in terms of development around the stations.”

Gone, but not forgotten

Another area resident, Greg Houston, said he was thrilled to see the building come down. He called it an eyesore. Plus, as a vegetarian, he said he blessed all the chickens that went through the plant.

“I’m thrilled for new development to come to this area,” he said.

“It’s a good thing. Looking forward to see the plans for what replaces this.”

Tufts said he hoped the city would at least recognize in some way the contribution the plant made to the area. It’s an important one.

“I mean, to commemorate the fact that literally thousands of people and families have grown up here with this plant and because of this plant.

“As great as it is to see it moving on. We should commemorate that.”

Though he, too, is excited by the possibilities for the area. He said the two station will likely be more transitional stops, with people passing through from the southeast into the downtown, but it also improves north/south access for people in both Inglewood and Ramsay.

Tufts house is situated right across from the plant area, with a bird’s-eye view of the transit sites.

“I’m really excited to see what actually happens on this site,”

“There’s a whole bunch of opportunity for really interesting development here. Community center, recreation center, to our tiny home community – who knows what could happen here, underneath the elevated tracks, it’s a really positive thing.”