Calgary

Inglewood's iconic lampposts removed after wind gust topples one

Two dozen of Inglewood's iconic black lampposts are being removed after a gust of wind blew one of the light fixtures over.

City rushes to replace lampposts after wind knocks over vintage-style street light

Inglewood's old lampposts were supposed to last 50 years. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Two dozen of Inglewood's iconic black lampposts are being removed — after a gust of wind blew one of the light fixtures over.

Members of the community's Business Improvement Area are worried about how quickly the city can replace the poles in the southeast Calgary neighbourhood — while they are stuck with suburban-style street lights.

On the afternoon of Oct. 7, BIA vice-chair and business owner Brian Imeson said he heard a crash.

At first, he thought it might have been a car accident on Ninth Avenue.

But once he was outside, he saw the fallen post.

According to the City of Calgary, the lampposts had shrouding along the bottom that held on to moisture. (Helen Pike/CBC)

"Luckily enough, it had not fallen on the sidewalk it had fallen on the road narrowly missing a vehicle. Thank god no one was hurt," he said. "The first thing that goes through your mind is if one is in that condition, then there's a good possibility the rest of them will be as well."

According to the city, the shrouding around the base of the decorative lamps was holding on to moisture. And, as Imeson said when he looked at the toppled pole, it was completely rotten with rust and corrosion.

Last week, the city began a days-long process to inspect each of the poles along the road. The inspection was done by looking at the infrastructure and using ultrasound technology.

On the left is one of the new lampposts in Inglewood. On the right is the style that was removed throughout 9th Avenue. (Helen Pike/ CBC)

The city is replacing approximately 23 to 25 of the old black poles with ones Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra calls "cobra" shaped ones.

But Rebecca O'Brien, executive director of the Inglewood Business Improvement Area, says the new lampposts ruin the feel of the neighbourhood and could actually hurt local businesses' bottom line.

O'Brien described it this way to the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday morning.

"Picture a Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, and Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit walking down a snowy London street. Picture a four-metre lamppost giving out a cozy, pedestrian, human-scale feeling. Then juxtapose that with the Superstore parking lot in Southland and the kind of lighting you would have there," she said.

O'Brien said foot traffic is the economic driver of Inglewood. 

"So to take away from that pedestrian experience substantially is to actually impact negatively the economics of that area.

"And as any business along Ninth Avenue and in the surrounding areas can tell you, their taxes have been raised exponentially, so this would be a very, very hard hit for the street."

Carra says the whole incident has been a wakeup call.

"Aging main streets like this need significant infrastructure upgrades, and that's why the main street program was developed — it was not funded in the last budget cycle," Carra said. "It's not just lampposts … it's sidewalks, curbs and gutters and then it's the pipes on the ground."

We're in an awkward situation here — do we wait for the full funding to do the whole meal deal, or do we put some money in now.- Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra

The city says the new so-called cobra posts are only temporary — and Carra says he will be working with the BIA to find short medium and long-term solutions. 

"We're in an awkward situation here — do we wait for the full funding to do the whole meal deal, or do we put some money in now," said Carra. "I understand the nervousness of the business community."

Carra says he thinks waiting for the whole streetscape plan to be funded is worth it.

But Imeson says as a business owner that's not good enough. His taxes have gone up 300 per cent — and he's not seeing anything for that extra money spent.

"We should be at least getting back investment into these communities," he said. "With the current economic condition, we are concerned this may drag on and not be rectified quickly."

Workers load the old lights from Inglewood onto flatbed trucks. (Helen Pike/CBC)

On top of the decorative poles, the BIA has lost banners it invested in — and fairy lights for the Christmas season are also up in the air.

Even though the city does yearly inspections on lighting, those inspections are determined by the highest average age of the poles by neighbourhood.

As it turns out, even though the poles were only 25 years old they weren't holding up. Normally, the lighting fixtures are meant to last up to 50 years.

Public safety a priority

"Public safety is the city's top priority. As technology evolves and as issues with different types of poles have been identified, standards have continued to improve," read the statement from Canace Bain, senior leader of construction for the city. "All poles installed in Calgary are now powder coated on top of galvanizing in order to extend the life of the pole."

The same poles are also being used in Mission. The city says three of them were replaced this year and in the next five years they will be phased out completely.

At this point, the city doesn't have a cost estimate for the incident in Inglewood.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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