Stephen Avenue development project on hold after province requests heritage assessment
Proposal plans include 3 towers on Stephen Ave., including a 66-storey condo
A major development project on Stephen Avenue proposed last spring has been put on hold after the Alberta government requested a heritage assessment of the street's existing buildings.
Dubbed Stephen Avenue Quarter, the project would see three large towers transform the block between Centre Street and First Street S.W., and Stephen Avenue and Seventh Avenue.
One proposed tower would be a 66-storey condo building, making it the tallest building in Calgary.
But those plans are now stalled.
According to Nancy Bishay with the province's department of culture, in December the Alberta government required the developer Triovest to complete a historic resources impact assessment.
She says it's because Stephen Avenue is a national historic site and contains a number of significant historic buildings.
"We want to ensure that the proposed redevelopment along Stephen Avenue is done responsibly and considers the unique heritage character of the area," Bishay said.
"The assessment will require the developer to explore a range of options that prioritize the retention of Stephen Avenue's historic buildings."
Bishay said the government will decide on any necessary preservation measures once the assessment is completed and evaluated.
Impact to heritage buildings
Josh Traptow, CEO of Heritage Calgary, says the province's request is prudent — but not unprecedented.
There are a total of 17 historically significant sites present in the redevelopment area, seven of which are legally protected under heritage designations from both municipal and provincial governments.
Of those buildings, 15 would be affected by the project.
"This is the largest development that I've ever [seen] with the largest number of heritage buildings that would be impacted," said Traptow.
It isn't the first time a provincial heritage assessment has been requested. Traptow says it also happened with the Calgary Brewing and Malting site in the late 2000s, and the Barron Building in the early 2010s.
"This is simply just a pause. They're not approving or not approving any of the developments — they're simply asking the developer to do their due diligence when it comes to what [the impact will be] on the heritage of Stephen Avenue."
Given the size of the project, Traptow says the assessment won't be a quick undertaking. The first step, he says, is for Triovest to hire a consultant that the province has to approve.
Then it will have to evaluate how the development will impact all 17 buildings in the area, according to Traptow.
He estimates that it could take up to a year to complete.
Triovest declined CBC News' request to comment on the Stephen Avenue heritage assessment.
Looking at the positive
Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, says the wait could actually be a good thing for developers, especially considering recent interest rate hikes.
"If they need to pause their plans for a bit and at the same time we'll see interest rates come down, that's actually net positive compared to where we are right now," she said.
Still, Yedlin says paused plans aren't ideal. Even as the Chinook Blast winter festival brought Calgarians to the downtown core, she says Stephen Ave isn't back to being the vibrant attraction it used to be.
Terry Wong, councillor of the area, has previously spoken out in favour of the project, saying it would help assist with downtown revitalization efforts.
Now, it's all about the wait. But Wong says he's looking forward to seeing what Triovest comes up with.
"We need to ensure the history and heritage of our buildings in Calgary are recognized," he said.