Councillors: Site left to ‘demolition by neglect’
The loss of a historic Calgary home was an avoidable case of neglect, say two city councillors demanding to know why restoration plans for a century-old landmark were shelved.The Enoch Sales House — a 115-year-old Queen Anne Revival in Victoria Park — was the last of its kind in Calgary before flames tore through the home on Saturday.The historic property is now a pile of rubble as investigators work to determine what caused the blaze. But Coun. Druh Farrell has asked the city to launch its own investigation into “whether or not all the steps were taken” to protect the historic home from “breaches.”“Not only is the building gone but, fighting a fire, we’ve endangered the safety of firefighters and the public,” Farrell said. “And so it’s the responsibility of the building owner to ensure the security of the building, and obviously that wasn’t done.”The building was purchased by the Calgary Municipal Land Corp. two years ago, which had proposed restoring the Enoch House as part of the East Village and Rivers District revitalization project to the tune of $3 million.Michael Brown, president and CEO of CMLC, said the corporation ran weekly checks on the property for safety and structural concerns. But Farrell said there should have been more frequent visits to the home due to its location and state of disrepair.Brown said, in hindsight, there could have been “more substantial fencing” around the property.But he also said increased security measures would have come at a cost to the city and putting up a large fence could have caused hazards to emergency crews needing access to the building.“What you’re doing is actually creating a scenario where the fire department or police can’t get to the building safely, so it’s a bit of a balancing act when it comes to making the building safe,” Brown said.As for why a revitalization plan never moved forward, Brown said the CMLC’s most recent proposal was not be supported by “some members of council,” but declined to identify them.“I’m very disappointed in the fact that I was not able . . . to figure out this project and I never realized time would be coming to an end for it,” Brown said.With access to a $150-million revitalization levy and stewardship by a city-owned corporation, Farrell is questioning why a historic site “with everything going for it” was put on ice by the corporation.Brown said securing required funding for the project came down to competing resources in the CMLC portfolio.Coun. Evan Woolley also has concerns around Enoch House’s stalled revitalization, saying he will raise questions to council on Monday about why “the namesake of this neighbourhood” was fated to “demolition by neglect.”“I am aware that the board had approved plans, then I was told that they cancelled plans,” Woolley said, calling the Enoch House fire “totally avoidable.”“I want to get to the bottom of what exactly happened and why.”Josh Traptow, executive director of the Calgary Heritage Authority, said many in the city’s heritage community could see the writing on the walls of the Enoch Sales house.“Everyone in the heritage community basically said ‘Enoch Sales is going to burn down some day,’ and that’s what we saw,” Traptow said.“And it was very unfortunate, but I’m hopeful that this situation will be a learning (moment) for the city ... that we need to take better care of our heritage.”No one was injured when the historic home in the 300 block of 12 Avenue S.E. caught fire sometime around about 7 a.m. on Saturday. Half a dozen emergency vehicles and a long plume of smoke could be seen along Macleod Trail as crews worked to knock down the blaze, and later knocked down parts of the building.Traptow called the Sales home “the most prominent building” in the historical inventory.Of the other approximately 650 historically significant buildings in Calgary, Trapow said none are at more risk of dilapidation than the Inglewood Brewery building.“That’s another very large site that has had discussions around it for the last eight, nine, 10 years,” he said, adding the area around the brewery has the city’s “largest amount of sandstone outside of Stephen Avenue.”“I don’t know if fire necessarily (is a risk), but definitely the demolition by neglect of the Inglewood brewery is a concern.”He said a nearly decade-old historical assessment by the province was never released, and Traptow lamented the area’s potential as a vibrant “brewery district.”
Calgary firefighters fight a two-alarm blaze at the Enoch Sales historic home in Victoria Park on Saturday.
The remains of the home on Sunday.
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