The following was originally Councillor Farrell's Ward 7 News Nugget from Feb 23, 2021:
I remember stepping over puddles of blood as I walked through East Village to City Hall nearly two decades ago. Blood, needles, and vomit were a regular sight when I lived in East Village’s Orange Lofts in 2003. I developed a habit of holding my cellphone as I walked the five minutes to and from work, always scanning my surroundings and ready to dial 9-1-1 on a moment’s notice. After late meetings, City security would walk me home at night.
To say the 550-metre walk between Calgary’s City Hall and Orange Lofts on 5th Street and 8th Ave S.W. has changed remarkably since 2003 is an understatement. Back then, the route passed by empty lots, boarded up buildings, and those who prey on Calgary’s most vulnerable citizens. The seniors who lived in the few existing towers were afraid to leave the safety of their block. Today, this area is home to the stunning National Music Centre and the restored King Eddy, new residential towers, and the dazzling Central Library. The opening of Orange Lofts in 2002 kicked off a transformation that’s changed Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood from a derelict part of the city into a vibrant community where more than 3,500 residents (and counting) live.
I’ve been thinking about East Village a lot lately, as I speak to the public and City staff about the future of Calgary’s Downtown. Downtowns are essential for the health of a city. They’re the cultural heart of a place, and because so much of our tax base comes from the core, a struggling downtown impacts the financial health of the entire city. Amid a multi-year recession, our Downtown was already struggling. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Today, nearly one out of three office towers are empty and there’s a shadow vacancy rate (vacant space that is still paid for) of about another 10%. Calgary’s office core is undergoing the most profound vacancy crisis of any major city in Canada since the great depression.
And yet, instead of feeling despair, I feel hopeful about the future of Downtown. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a downtown, and a Calgary, for the next generation. I know it won’t be easy but I know it’s possible. I know there isn’t one magic solution that will fix our core, but rather many changes that must occur. One only needs to look to nearby East Village for inspiration that a transformation is both possible and worth the hard work it will take.
If transforming our Downtown is a 10 on a scale of difficulty, East Village was a 100. Whether you’re tobogganing on St. Patrick’s Island, grabbing a coffee from the Simmons Building and strolling along River Walk, or hanging out at the Central Library, it’s easy to enjoy East Village while forgetting its checkered past.
East Village is located at the confluence of the Elbow and Bow rivers, and for thousands of years the area was an important gathering place for Indigenous peoples. By the 1940s, the district was known for its bootleggers and brothels and had been dubbed a “skid row” by Calgary’s Medical Officer of Health. Revitalization efforts were attempted, unsuccessfully, in both the 60s and 70s, and many gave up on the area. Social concerns long deterred private investment and the infrastructure crumbled. Built on an old landfill and tannery, the entire neighbourhood required environmental clean up. Utility replacement was desperately needed. A berm separated the river from the community, which also lacked connecting routes to the rest of the city. Much of the neighbourhood needed to be raised several meters out of the floodway.
It took more than a decade of hard work to build East Village into the funky neighbourhood Calgarians know today. A nearly $400-million public investment spurred nearly $3 billion of planned private investment. Transforming this neglected, forgotten area was a fight. I have the battle scars to show for it. But, gosh, was it worth it.
I believe we can, and we must, build a future city for the next generation, starting in the very heart of our city, our Downtown. And I believe the lessons learned while rejuvenating East Village must be applied as we build a downtown for people of all ages, abilities, and incomes to live, learn, work, and play.
The first lesson? We must believe it can be done and push confidently past the naysayers. Throughout East Village’s transformation, I heard again and again, a sarcastic, good luck. I was told no one would visit St. Patrick’s Island because of the crime. Today, it’s one of the busiest parks in the city, where everyone feels welcome. When we chose the new site for the Central Library, many scoffed at the location – no one would visit 3 Street. S.E., they said. Some said it would be impossible to accommodate the C-Train in the building’s design. Not only does the Central Library have a train running through it, more than two million people visited the building in its first 14 months. There were a lot of doubters and only a handful of believers when we set to transform East Village. We listened to the believers.
We must also listen to the people who already live Downtown, many of whom are families new to Canada. We need to reach out to existing residents and ask them, what do you love about living here? What do you hate? What would keep you here? We need to ask Calgarians of all backgrounds and ages, from all areas of the city, what would entice you to live Downtown?
When the third and final attempt at revitalizing East Village began in the mid-2000s, an extensive market study took place. Calgarians were asked what it would take for them to live there. We heard they didn’t mind a little grit and they loved the tangible history. They told us they wanted to get around by bike, transit, and their own two feet – life without a car – a startling thing to hear at that time. They described desires for a vibrant public realm and said they cared about the river, parks, public art, live music, and neighbourhood eateries.
What did we do after hearing all that? We made it happen. After raising the land and replacing the infrastructure, the first big move was celebrating the river with RiverWalk. Sidewalks were widened, and new landscaping, streetlights, and benches were installed. We took an abandoned fish market and turned it into a temporary art centre. We staged yoga classes, street markets, and summertime opera to attract visitors. Council approved Calgary’s first parking-free condo building. We watched as condo sales increased every time a new piece of public art was unveiled. We saved historic buildings like the Simmons, St. Louis, and the King Eddy, which was dismantled brick by brick and then re-assembled.
We absolutely must include youth in the conversation about our future Downtown. The 15-year-olds of today will be the 25-year-olds living in a revitalized Downtown a decade from now.
We also need to consult future-oriented industries, especially tech. I keep hearing we can save downtown by just recruiting tech companies to move into cubicles, but the firms I talk to don’t want to work in a vertical office park. Many want to move to East Village because they love the neighbourhood feel. We need to ask them what would lure them Downtown.
Adjacent to the King Eddy sits a colourful basketball court known as Bounce. This games park is temporary. It sits on a parking lot that two summers ago was home to a dozen neon painted shipping containers that housed retail pop-ups. Two summers before that, it was a gas station that sold tire gauges for makeshift crack pipes. From this gas station turned basketball court, to community gardens and dog parks, East Village has taken advantage of empty space and programmed it, creating attractions for visitors. Downtown should follow suit. Every vacant lot in our city’s core should have something cool on it to bring people Downtown, like temporary patios, skating rinks, and street markets. We need to give Calgarians a reason to visit.
And we need to give existing residents places to build community. When the East Village transformation started, many people who called the area home lived in deep poverty. We intentionally built amenities like playgrounds, dog parks, and community gardens where people from disparate demographics could come together. We were intentional about building a diverse neighbourhood and not displacing existing residents. The same must occur Downtown.
If we want Calgarians to stay Downtown, we must invest in the public realm. That means parks, pathways, tree-lined sidewalks, and so on. Some parts of Downtown have the narrowest sidewalks in the country. Many are crumbling and in need of replacement. The lessons from East Village are clear. We must transform our core from a vertical office park into a place where people want to be. Think about the potential that exists in Downtown West, with the river just steps away.
We treat our core like a place to go through, rather than go to. For decades we’ve lamented that Downtown empties out after 5 p.m., yet its entire transportation system has been built for that quick exit. Cities around the world are humanizing their downtown streets to attract new residential, new talent, and new industries.
Speaking of change, we must finally let go of the past. We’ve been lazy with our Downtown. We’ve waited for it to recover, because it always has. But times have changed. We know those office towers won’t fill back up with oil and gas companies. It’s also complicated and expensive to convert office towers to residential. They’ll sit empty if we don’t find a way to make conversions easier. We must look at financial incentives, tax holidays, and energy retrofits to spur development in our core. To attract private development in the East Village, we invested to show the area was worth exploring. Let this serve as inspiration.
We intentionally invested in that future for East Village nearly two decades ago. Transforming our core from a vertical office park to a vibrant neighbourhood will take the same intentional change. I recently stumbled upon old photos of East Village in the early 2000s. I gasped as I saw just how far this neighbourhood has come. When I walk through East Village today, it’s easy to forget the big fights, the sleepless nights and the sheer determination that it took to transform this place. Building a Downtown core that will welcome future generations won’t be easy. But East Village shows us it can be done and Calgary will be better for it.
I won’t be running for re-election this fall. It won’t be me championing our Downtown into the coming decades. We need bold leadership around the council table to ensure our Downtown is transformed into a true community where people will want to live, work, learn, and play for years to come. City-building is no easy task but, after 20 years around the council table, I can tell you it is worth it.
We need to build a downtown for all of Calgary. When the new Central Library opened its doors in 2018, I visited every day during its first week. I watched as Calgarians would enter the stunning atrium, pause, look around, and take it all in. I watched tears stream down faces. This space was theirs. It was built for them. East Village shows transformation is possible. It’s worth the hard work. We can, and we must, build a downtown that future generations will be proud of.
Cllr. Druh Farrell, Ward 7 City Councillor
Office of the Councillors
P.O. Box 2100, Stn. M
Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2M5
p. 403.268.4428 │ f. 403.268.3823 │ e. firstname.lastname@example.org
The following article can be downloaded as a PDF here.
If you can believe it, East Village Neighbourhood Association (EVNA) is now 10 years old! We have seen a lot of changes to our neighbourhood in that time and added many new faces. To celebrate this milestone and to reflect the growth of our community, we are delighted to debut our brand-new logo with you, our family of #EVneighbours! We believe this new design reflects our community’s growth and embodies our core values perfectly!
The new logo features a colourful cityscape, with five buildings of various shapes and sizes, plus our iconic George C. King “Skipping Stone” Bridge in front. This imagery helps differentiate our neighbourhood from others in the city, as we are uniquely high-rise oriented. The six vibrant colours help convey our fun and lively nature, while also paying homage to the diversity of East Village’s residents and guests.
Below the cityscape lies our nameplate in a seventh colour, steel-blue. Two versions of the typographic elements are used: our full name is for regular use, while the shortened “YYCEVNA” name is reserved for social media platforms. Anchored beneath the nameplate is a graphical representation of the brick pavers that permeate our neighbourhood and make our streets so unique. By using this brick pattern, and incorporating orange within its new rainbow of colours, the new logo gives a loving nod toward its predecessor. Likewise, the words “East Village” continue to be the dominating text, as the neighbourhood remains the central focus of the association.
The new logo is finished by being wrapped in a double-lined circle of steel-blue to illustrate the unity and resiliency we’ve shown through the years. Whether it be the losses felt by decades of urban renewal schemes, the devastating floods of 2005 and 2013, or the socially-isolated pandemic of 2020, we think you’ll all agree that this neighbourhood has seen and been through a lot of hardships. But getting us through it all is a strong and compassionate group of diverse individuals who care and help their neighbours in times of need. This is the true heart of the community that we aimed to capture within our new logo.
Our Revitalization Committee was established last year in response to the opportunity afforded us by COVID-19’s pause on ‘normal’ life. The committee was given the time and resources needed to look inward and renew EVNA’s outlook for the coming years. This included overhauling our website and communication tools, as well as updating our vision and mission statements. Our vision at EVNA is to support an inclusive, thriving, and vibrant East Village where all are welcome to live, learn, work, and play. Our mission is to encourage conversation and interaction to create a sense of belonging and ownership for all who live work and play in East Village. We believe our new logo imbues these statements wonderfully with playful colours, familiar patterns, and a unified design. We are thrilled to show off this new logo with our #EVneighbours and hope you are excited about it too.
Visual Identity Guidelines
What better time to celebrate 10 years of EVNA than in the month that we also celebrate love and family? Help us fulfil our goals of community engagement and connection by joining our family of members and volunteers! You can register as a member, or learn more about volunteering by clicking these links! We hope to hear from you all soon!
The following has been provided to us from our community partner, Alpha House, which can also be downloaded here as a PDF:
Alpha House Hostel
24/7 Building Line
Calgary Police Non-Emergency Services
Alpha House D.O.A.P. Team
Alpha House Encampment Team
Community Heritage and Family History – Digital Library - Calgary Public Library – Alison Jackson Photograph Collection. Chateau Rooms, 430 7th Avenue S.E. c. 13-Aug-63
This three-and-a-half storey “Tenement House” intended as moderately-priced accommodation for newcomers emigrating to Calgary, was constructed in 1910, during the boomtown period, (Building Permit #306/1908), at an estimated cost of $4,000.00. Although the architect is unknown, the owner was P.A.G. Rodrigue, a contractor. He also built for $500.00 in 1908, the dwelling where he lived at 427 6 Avenue S.E. (Lots 14-15, Building Permit #41/1908).
The building was vernacular design and its most unusual distinct feature, rare in Alberta, boast a 2-storey veranda which ran across the front façade. This placed emphasis on the 2nd storey which was the main entranceway reached by a staircase with railings, from the sidewalk, reminiscent of a style common in urban Quebec. The veranda was embellished with wooden trellis work, which consisted mainly of angular pieces of wood. There was no attempt at any carving or scroll work.
The façade was broken up into three distinct units with the ground level and 2nd storey level each containing 3 entranceways. Also, there was a back porch.
ROOMS TO RENT
420 Seventh Ave. East - 35¢ and 50¢ daily;
$2.00 and $2.50 weekly.
A CLASSIFIED AD found in the Western Farmer and Weekly Albertan, Calgary. Thursday, April 23, 1925. Page 9
The foundation was concrete, there was no basement. The exterior was wood, covered with a cream-coloured brick. The windows were double hung with 9 on 9 glazing and set within plain wooden frames. Above each was a segmented arch in the brickwork. Little attention was apparently paid to the windows and trim on the other sides of the building. The doors were also set within plain frames and each was surmounted with a small hinged transom window above the doorway providing lighting.
Projecting from the wood and shingled sloping mansard roof was vertical dormer windows on the lower slopes, and the flat area on top was surrounded by metal fleur-de-lis, (the emblem of the Province of Quebec).
Upon perusal of the original City of Calgary- Assessor’s Department History Card of Inspections, the building had 36 rooms, one Bath Room, 15 Plumbing fixtures in fair condition, stained fir floors/trim, stove heating and 2 chimneys.
In 1920 improvements were made to the lower level. At a later time the building was divided into 27 rooms, two of which belonged to the building manager. There was a central lounge space in the middle of the building with staircases rising up on either side of it and one staircase rising to the 3rd floor in the centre of the building. In 1948 Storage Sheds and a Garage were provided.
In 1949 the building was sold to a new owner, Jacob (Jack) Laven.
The final owner was business man, Mr. Harry Binsky who said he spent thousands of dollars on the building to improve fire standards, thus bringing it up to code.
Mr. Binsky, together with his wife, Mrs. Rosalie Binsky, owned five lots and believed that the value of their five lot package had been decreased considerably because the Chateau Rooms was located in the middle. Mr. Binsky offered the Chateau Rooms free to Heritage Park in the late 1970’s, but backed off when told he’d have to pay the moving costs.
Because Mr. Binsky wanted the building off his property, he next offered to participate with a developer, (and attractive concessions), in its removal to a small City park which was located on the corner of 4th Street and 7th Avenue S.E. The reluctance of the City of Calgary, Planning Department, to grant more concessions, or to sanction the move of the building to a new City owned site, created a stalemate.
The building was at one time placed on a list of about-to-be investigated sites by the Historic Sites Board of Alberta as a Provincial Historic Resource, at the insistence of the City Planning Department, Special Projects Division, as it was considered a fine example of Calgary’s architectural heritage, but negotiations came to a standstill.
Community Heritage and Family History – Digital Library - Calgary Public Library. Alison Jackson Photograph Collection. Chateau Rooms, 430 7th Avenue S.E. c. 13-Aug-63
On Friday, June 6, 1980, a city building inspector rushed to the building shortly after 1pm when city officials were tipped a bulldozer was on the site, and handed Binsky a stop-work order which was in effect until a demolition permit was issued. By then, the front and back verandahs were down, although the rest of the building was intact and the bulldozer had left.
Apparently no demolition permit had been issued, nor was there any record of an application for a permit. Mr. Binsky said, the Demolition Contractor he hired, Bill Wearmouth, was to have obtained the necessary permits. The rest of the building will not come down until a permit is issued, Wearmouth said. He also said, nothing was amiss because taking off the porches did not constitute demolition.
However, once a building is designated as a historic resource by the province, it cannot be demolished or altered without permission.
In an interview, Mr. Binsky said that he did not know the building was being considered for provincial designation as a historic resource. When faced with to meet requirements), he evicted the tenants and decided to turn the site into a parking lot for the meat equipment business he operated next door. (Butchers & Packers Supplies Limited).
A letter under date of November 14, 1980 to Mr. and Mrs. Harry Binsky, from the Minister Responsible for Alberta Culture, as guardian of historic resources at the time, Mary J. LeMessurier, informed them the Chateau Rooms was not worthy of designation. Architecturally, the building which was just one of a small handful of older buildings of any sort still standing in 1980 in Calgary’s East Village, was then demolished shortly thereafter.
Community Heritage and Family History – Digital Library - Calgary Public Library. Alison Jackson Photograph Collection. Chateau Rooms, 430 7th Avenue S.E. c. 14-Aug-63
Researched and compiled by: M.P. (Pat) Hooper
Word processing by: Susan Hooper
[With special thanks to Carol Stokes, Archivist, City Clerk’s Office]
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the village
Not a creature was stirring, not even an elf;
The cookies were out with drinks of eggnog galore,
In knowledge that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The neighbours were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Christmas lights danced in their heads;
My friend in her toque, and I in my hat (found it!),
Had just settled down for one last toast before bed.
When out in 5th Street Square there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
Away to the patio I flew like a flash,
Tore open the doors and stepped out on the deck.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a bright red sleigh, and eight hungry reindeer,
With that old slave driver, my boss and my friend,
I knew in a moment my time here was up.
More rapid than 24 days. I swear that it was,
So I leaned over the rail, and whistled, and called “Hey Santa!”
"Hold, just a moment! Wait ‘til you hear! Now, now, listen in awe!
The Village! Oh my! Dog parks, and art walks, and friends that were made!
To the library, architecture divine! To crab shacks and Bounce, games for all!
Dash away! dash away! I’m not ready to go, not even at all!"
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
So we jumped in the elevator, no dallying around,
There on the rooftop St. Nicholas came with a bound.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
He laughed as he said, “oh Derek, it really is cherry!”
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke just a word; “STAY”, I knew then from home I could work,
Clasping my hand with a really big grin; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up towards the Tower lights he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS EAST VILLAGE, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!
A few days ago I went on a mini urban hiking experience at St. Patrick’s Island. It’s so cool to be able to be surrounded by nature just a few steps from my home away from home! It’s got some pretty cool spots to watch the river and the geese who are still here even in the winter?! And guess what? I even saw that there is a curling area too. I’m really embracing the Canadian winter experience! I hope that next year I’ll be able to try it out with some friends (COVID-19 permitting of course).
Something that I wish I brought with me to this trip was a sled, I didn’t know you had a giant hill that I can toboggan in! Even without a sled, I still enjoyed the views from the top. You can see the City from up there! Oh look that’s where I live!
Good Day Neighbours! It’s been a few weeks now of getting to know each other and I think we are starting to have a pretty good friendship! The type of friendship where you tell each other anything! You might not know this about me yet...but I LOVE a photo opportunity! Maybe it’s because I’m from the North Pole, but there are only so many times you can take a picture with a snowman before it looks forced. I confess, I have been going on a regular Art Walk right here in the EV; it’s been magical, sometimes the light is perfect and the colours really pop and Voila! Another amazing Selfie! I call it the “Elfie”.
I like to start my walk with Julian Opie’s computerized LED-animated piece called Promenade, it really gets me moving! Along the Riverwalk you can see Ron Moppet’s Tile Murals, Katie Green’s photographic installation and look across the river and see Bloom a sculpture by Michel de Broin on St. Patrick’s Island.
Over at the Library, I like waving hello to Christian Moeller’s three-piece sculpture, TRIO (they are the kind of friends you can have without ever saying a word).
I like to end my walk at the Bounce Game Park, the murals named Found Home, by MAUD always make me smile, because I feel very at home here in the EV. I might even use a couple of these “Elfies” to send out for my Christmas card this year!
I was out just going for my Sunday morning walk when I came across the sign for the Nordic Loop! How exciting! It’s a 1 km loop around Fort Calgary and you can use your cross-country skis and snowshoes – this makes me think of what we have back home. Although I’m not complaining that we’ve been having the warmest weather but we might need a little bit more snow to use the track. I checked the weather forecast and it’s looking like we might be able to try it out in the next few days. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be here doing my laps – woosh woosh!
Have I mentioned how at home I feel here yet?(wink wink-chuckle chuckle) It’s exciting to countdown the days until Christmas, but I’m really going to miss you when it’s time to go back to the North Pole.! I’m thinking maybe there’s a way I can talk Santa into letting me stop by the East Village during the summer. Picture me in shorts and a tank top , sunglasses, and a lot of SPF 50!
Maybe it’s a ‘ north pole thing’, but it’s always been my dream to grow my own real vegetables, in a real garden. So naturally, I have become obsessed with the East Village Community Garden on my daily walks; sure, it’s all snowy now, but I can imagine tall sunflowers, towers of tomatoes, kale blowing wistfully in the wind. What would you grow?
I better make my case to Santa soon, because registration opens for the garden on March 1, 2021.
An inclusive, thriving, and vibrant East Village where all are welcome to live, learn, work, and play.
To encourage conversation and interaction to create a sense of belonging and ownership for all who live, work, and play in East Village.
Mail: 536 9 Avenue SE Calgary, AB T2G 0S1