Though few in number, the historic buildings in East Village are big in character. The colourful histories of the Hillier Block, Simmons Building, St. Louis Hotel and King Edward Hotel add a compelling dimension to the neighbourhood’s personality. That’s why CMLC has worked hard to incorporate these buildings into the area’s overall planning and development.
CMLC’s extensive remediation and restoration of these heritage buildings is either complete or currently underway.
Since initiating restoration efforts in 2008, CMLC has brought the Simmons Building up to 21st-century spec while preserving and restoring its important historical elements, setting the stage for its transformation into an exciting culinary destination along the newly redeveloped RiverWalk in East Village.
Formerly a factory warehouse for a national bedding manufacturer, the Simmons Building snoozed beside the Bow River for decades before CMLC took up the restoration challenge.
After repairing windows and mechanical systems, removing contaminated materials, refinishing floors and installing new fire protection systems and doors, CMLC set up shop in the Simmons Building until 2012, when we relocated to make way for the three retail tenants that won the day after our national call for Expressions of Interest in 2011: Charbar, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.
After selecting its new tenants, CMLC got busy on the Simmons Building once again, modernizing its structure and systems while preserving and restoring elements with significant heritage value. These included 36 solid fir pillars, 22 metal radiators, some of the building’s brickwork and its metal barn doors. CMLC also improved the building’s basement, replaced 18 window frames with equally expressive modern counterparts, cut out part of the second floor to open up the space, and added stairwells and an elevator. Further, to activate the building as a key dimension of our RiverWalk master plan, we opened up the north side of the Simmons to provide spectacular views and establish an intimate relationship with the river.
The tenants then took over, designing their interiors and readying their kitchens, roastery and ovens. By summer 2015, the doors of the rejuvenated Simmons Building were open – just in time to welcome the first new residents of East Village.
The occupancy of the Simmons Building by three local food and beverage champions puts in place an important piece of CMLC’s retail strategy for East Village, which calls for approximately 100,000 sq ft of Village Format retail – a ‘boutique’ style of retail that tends to be more intimate and service-oriented than Urban Format retail, which in East Village will add up to about 300,000 sq ft and include such categories as grocery, home improvement and general merchandise.
St. Louis Hotel
In 2011, CMLC began restoring this historic building – one of just six Calgary hotels that predate World War I – with the removal of hazardous building materials. In 2015, CMLC began to prepare the St. Louis for its next chapter, undertaking structural repairs to prepare the building for future commercial and office tenants.
Built in 1914, this three-storey brick structure on 8th Avenue SE originally contained a bar, café, barbershop and cigar stand in addition to 60 hotel rooms. The hotel underwent extensive remodelling in 1959, and some of those later changes now possess heritage value in their own right: the illuminated signage suspended from the façade, the lobby’s sleek terrazzo flooring and the basement lounge. Calgary City Council designated the St. Louis Hotel as a Municipal Historic Resource in February 2008.
The vision for the St. Louis Hotel is to restore and prepare the building for a variety of long-term uses including retail and restaurants with mixed-use office space in the upper floors. CMLC has formed a project steering committee to guide the direction of this important historical asset and ensure it is revitalized into a dynamic public space.
One of only seven pre-World War I commercial structures still standing in East Village, Hillier Block has been standing three storeys tall on 8th Avenue SE since 1910. In April 2012, CMLC relocated its headquarters to the Hillier Block to make room for new tenants in the Simmons Building.
Like so many of Calgary’s early buildings, the Hillier is detailed with sandstone from local quarries; and the building retains its original ornamental metal cornices, recessed-entry storefront and red brick façade.
Originally home to a billiards hall and barbershop on the ground floor with residential suites above, Hillier Block received its designation as a Municipal Historic Resource from Calgary City Council in February 2008. Despite its extremely poor condition when the Hillier was transferred to CMLC, this historic building is now fully restored.
CMLC will continue to occupy Hillier Block until the time comes to transition the space for new commercial tenants.
King Edward Hotel
Calgary’s second oldest hotel building, the King Edward Hotel – affectionately known as ‘the King Eddy’ – is well on its way to fulfilling its destiny as the home of the National Music Centre (NMC).
Built in phases between 1905 and 1910, the King Eddy emerged as one of Canada’s first blues bars in the early 1980s. Hosting legendary blues musicians like BB King, John Hammond, Pinetop Perkins and Otis Rush as well as Canadian rocker Bryan Adams, it gained a national reputation as ‘Home of the Blues’ until it closed its doors in 2004.
In May 2008, following our national call for Expressions of Interest and a rigorous competitive process, CMLC selected a partner for the project: Cantos Music Foundation, whose vision is to incorporate the King Eddy into the 160,000 sq ft National Music Centre – an architectural icon that will straddle 4th Street SE. CMLC also enabled the transaction of land for delivery of the NMC – a project valued at $168 million. For more information on the NMC, visit www.nmc.ca.
Restoration and environmental remediation work in the hotel began in 2010, and construction of the NMC, which began early in 2013, is continuing toward its planned completion in 2016. The King Eddy’s musical legacy plays on!