Kensington Legion faces uncertain future after land deal falls through

It's been a mainstay in Calgary for more than 50 years, but now the Kensington Legion says it may have to to close its doors for good.

'It's reached the point where we can no longer stay in it for an extended period of time'

The area highlighted in red is the land a developer wanted to purchase from the city in a plan that would have seen a new legion building included in a inner-city development. (CBC)

It's been a mainstay in Calgary for more than 50 years, but now the Kensington Legion says it may have to close its doors for good.

The plan was to build a three-story building with a new legion on the main floor and office space above, which could generate revenue for the Kensington branch. Members say it was a chance to revitalize, and the legion partnered with the developer Qualico to make it happen.

Mark Barham says the Kensington Legion in Calgary is in a dire situation after a developer walked away from a plan to revitalize the area because of a pricey parcel of land that belongs to the city. (CBC)

"It was a win for the community, win for the legion, and a win for the city with the potential density increase for the core as per the municipal core development plan," said Mark Barham, the dominion treasurer of Royal Canadian Legion who is also a trustee at the Kensington branch, said in an email.

The developer wanted to purchase a small piece of land next to the legion on 18A Street. Barham said the land is roughly seven metres wide by 30 metres long and is a utility right-of-way that cannot be built on.

"The lease actually states that it can be used as an access point and for parking, and that was not going to change," he said. 

For the past 36 years the legion has leased it from the city for $150 a year. 

But to buy it, the city pegged the price of the land at more than $1.5 million even though the property has only been assessed for $350,000.

Area councillor looks to help

The city gave the developer two months to purchase the land, but the developer walked away from the deal on Wednesday. 

At this point there is no solid timeline for how long this current legion can last.

The Kensington Legion has been operating in Calgary for more than 50 years. (CBC)

"It's reached the point where we can no longer stay in it for an extended period of time," Barham told CBC News. 

Members believe it's crucial to have a new building soon to attract visitors and support veterans, but they say a lot of their future now hinges on the city.

"We don't have the money to start this process again. We don't. We spent approximately $50,000 and this building is falling apart around our ears," said Barham. 

Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell, who represents the area, says the city is eager to strike a deal but could not comment on the cost of the parcel of land. She also believes there is more at play than just the price tag.

"From what I understand it's more than just that one access point," she said.

"But certainly that was a big disappointment. The legion needs this development and it's also really beneficial to the neighbourhood. And so whatever I can do to help bridge that gap. It may not be with this particular developer, but perhaps introducing them to other interested parties. I'll do what I can to help them."

Here is a picture of the draft plan for the development. (Devin Heroux/CBC)
The view from the front of the Kensington Legion. (Google Street View)
This is the view from 18A Street behind the Kensington Legion. The parcel of land in question is located just past the sidewalk. (Google Street View)

With files from CBC's Devin Heroux


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