Historical designation endorsed for Plaza Theatre in Kensington, three other buildings

The committee also endorsed municipal historic resource designations for the Cross and Lawless residences in Inglewood and the Nimmons residence in Bankview

Article content

Calgary councillors endorsed municipal historic resource designations for four heritage buildings on Wednesday, including the almost century-old Plaza Theatre in Kensington.

But while the head of Heritage Calgary was pleased with the endorsements, he argued his team is underfunded to contend with a growing public interest in evaluating the city’s historic assets.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

Members of the infrastructure and planning committee voted unanimously to conserve the four buildings in perpetuity, after municipal historic resource designations were proposed for them by Heritage Calgary.

The designations means the buildings cannot be torn down or altered in a way that will negatively affect their heritage components. It also makes the property owners eligible for conservation grant funding from the city or province.

Josh Traptow, CEO of Heritage Calgary, wrote to the committee that the historic Plaza Theatre has become a landmark in Kensington’s business district due to its unique function and distinctive architecture.

He also mentioned the building at 1133 Kensington Rd. N.W. has remained a popular destination citywide for Calgary’s cinephiles.

“In this capacity, it has been one of the city’s premier venues for moviegoing, and a magnet for film buffs and culture-savvy patrons,” Traptow wrote. “Today, the Plaza Theatre remains a community connector through its offerings of movie, food and drink.”

The building originally operated as a garage when it first opened in 1928 before it was repurposed into a movie theatre in the mid-1930s. It was the city’s third neighbourhood theatre and the first in Kensington.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Related Stories

The Plaza’s role and identity shifted by the 1970s, when it became a “repertory” theatre that featured artistic, foreign and vintage films, while also hosting film festivals and special events.

In the 1980s, some of the theatre’s seats were removed to make room for a stage to host live theatre productions. Until 1998, the Kensington building was Calgary’s only cinema that offered both film screenings and live theatre.

After closing in August 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic due to financial pressures, the rejuvenated Plaza Theatre reopened in early 2022 under new leaseholders. It is now Calgary’s last remaining single-screen cinema and oldest operating theatre.

The Cross residence in Inglewood, home to Rouge Restaurant.
The Cross residence in Inglewood, home to Rouge Restaurant. Postmedia archve

In addition to the Plaza Theatre, committee members also endorsed municipal historic resource designations for the Cross and Lawless residences in Inglewood and the Nimmons residence in Bankview.

The designations still have to be formally approved at a future regular city council meeting.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Heritage Calgary CEO says program is not adequately funded

Addressing the committee on Wednesday, Traptow said 131 sites in Calgary have municipal historic resource status.

While it took three decades to approve the city’s first 100 municipal historic resource designations, he said the last 31 have been approved in the past three years.

He said there’s been a growing interest among property owners in being added to Calgary’s heritage inventory, noting his staff received 70 evaluation requests this year.

However, Traptow said he was disappointed councillors didn’t include a residential tax credit and non-residential grant program for eligible heritage sites as part of the city’s budget.

The Nimmons residence at 1827 14th St. S.W. was built in 1898.
The Nimmons residence at 1827 14th St. S.W. was built in 1898. City of Calgary

He said Heritage Calgary is not adequately funded to deal with the influx of heritage evaluation requests. Though the program received one-time funding from the city’s planning and development department for 2023, he said the team’s numbers will be reduced by one position next year, from six to five people.

“I would say in anticipation of the residential tax credit and the non-residential grant program, no, we’re not adequately resourced from an evaluation and staffing point of view,” he said.

Advertisement 5

Article content

“In addition, the work on heritage incentives remains somewhat hamstrung in the absence of an updated heritage strategy.”

Mentioning the West Elbow Local Area Plan (LAP), Traptow said Heritage Calgary is anticipating a significant increase in heritage inventory requests in the coming years. Of the 15 communities in that LAP, he noted 13 have heritage assets, and a drive-by survey identified nearly 300 potential historic sites in those neighbourhoods.

Traptow said he had requested an additional $130,000 in base funding for the next three years, but the request was not supported by the city.

“We’ll continue to work with administration and major partnerships in planning and development, but there are a number of pieces that need to be worked on for the tax credit and grant program in order for us to be properly resourced to support them and make sure they can be successful,” he said.

Article content