Sell heritage buildings to save on upkeep, says alderman

The city should consider selling some heritage buildings and divert the proceeds to maintaining other ones, says a Calgary alderman.
Rouge restaurant in Inglewood is located in a historic house leased from the City of Calgary. ((CBC))

The city should consider selling some of its heritage buildings and divert the proceeds to maintaining other ones, says a Calgary alderman.

The city owns 59 heritage properties, many of which are leased to businesses. However, as the landlord, the city must pay for the upkeep of the aging buildings.

Ald. Joe Ceci is proposing that if the city can't afford to maintain the properties, then it should sell them.

"The public might generally feel that this is a way the city is going to divest itself of all properties. That's not going to happen. I want to be clear about that," explained Ceci on Monday. "There are many heritage properties, city-owned, like old City Hall, like the Central Memorial Library and many others like that that we just will not sell."

Oliver Reynaud, the co-owner of the Rouge restaurant in Inglewood, leases the historic Cross House from the city. The building has old plumbing among a lengthy list of maintenance issues.

"It's not a bad idea for the city since they're not really taking care of the building," he said. "But for me to buy it, it's a lot of money. I don't know if I could afford it."

Even with a $1-million price tag, Reynaud believes the building is worth saving for someone with deep pockets.

"I've been here for 10 years now and I've heard a lot of people coming through the doors here at Rouge saying we don't have a history in Calgary. Well, if we don't take care of it, we'll never have one," Reynaud said.

The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society, a volunteer group dedicated to preserving the city's history, seems comfortable with the idea.

"It's good and we're supportive as long as the buildings that do get sold are designated and that we're assured that the future owners will continue to maintain those properties," said the group's president, Cynthia Klaassen.

City council voted Monday for a report, due this summer, on its options for the heritage buildings.