Historic McHugh House has promising future as Beltline community hub

The sixth oldest house in Calgary is getting a new life as the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association has signed a lease agreement with the city and intends to use the building to create a community hub.

Beltline Neighbourhoods Association says it has big plans for Calgary's 6th oldest house

Calgary council moved the historic McHugh House in 2014 to save it after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary sold the land under the home for redevelopment. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

It's the sixth oldest house in Calgary but now, it will have a new purpose.

McHugh House dates back to 1896. It's an eye-catching building, with its steep gable roof and distinctive front turret and tall windows.

In recent decades, the brick house was owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary.

It sold the original McHugh site for redevelopment but agreed to let the city have the house if it removed the building from the site.

In 2014, the city moved it to a park on the nearby corner of 17th Avenue and Centre Street South.

Beyond a partial renovation, McHugh has been empty ever since.

Old building, new life

Now, the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association has signed a lease agreement with the city and intends to operate it as a community hub.

The president of the association, Peter Oliver, said they have plans.

"We're looking at subletting out to interested organizations," said Oliver. "Organizations that are either looking for studio space, the arts or social groups in the area. Generally speaking, non-profits that are looking for a small space."

McHugh House was moved from its original location in the 100 block of 18th Avenue S.W., to a nearby park in 2014. (CBC)

The upper two floors of the house have a number of small bedrooms. He said they're just the right size for people or organizations that want a small studio or office space.

The association has already signed a deal with its first partner.

Oliver said university radio station CJSW will be programming youth music shows in the house as part of an attempt to revive the all-ages music scene.

"It's really tough right now in Calgary for youth artists to find a space to perform. Really, the only spaces are bars where you have to be 18," said Oliver. "This fills that missing void where you can have all-ages shows and events."

Vision for Humpy Hollow Park 

The city councillor for the area, Evan Woolley, is pleased a key tenant has been found and the building will be re-activated. Plans are also in the works to get greater use of Humpy Hollow Park, the small greenspace just west of where McHugh House sits today.

"We need to try and find partnerships to fix up the rest of the insides but for now, it is this home. We've got the main floor renovated and restored. It will be a gathering space as we figure out the larger vision for the park," said Woolley.

The other role that McHugh House will play over the next few years is the home for city officials who are overseeing the ongoing re-construction of 17th Avenue. 

They wanted a central location on the street where business owners could find city employees to talk about the project. They'll occupy the basement of the house.

The Beltline is seen as the ideal place to try to develop this community hub concept.

Although it's a community association, the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association is moving away from the tried and true concept of a community hall that's available for rental.

Oliver said they want McHugh House to be an active place where people from different communities, interests or ages can interact, day or night.