Goodbye Mount Royal Block, hello chain stores

By Kirstin Morrell

One of Calgary’s oldest commercial blocks is slated for demolition, leaving Mount Royal residents alarmed at the prospects for the future of their neighbourhood.

Tonko Realty Advisors Ltd., owners of Westhills Towne Centre and other properties in Calgary, secured a demolition permit for the 93-year-old building, but their development plans remain unapproved by the city. What details have been made public for the 800 block of 17th Ave. SW have upset many Calgarians.

Alderman Madeline King, in a letter to her constituents, assured Ward 8 residents that she has been in contact with the City of Calgary Planning Department and the developer.

“Seventeenth Avenue is a unique shopping district, offering a variety of small boutique stores, and the community has expressed its desire to maintain this character,” the letter states.

Lower Mount Royal resident Barb Geiger is one of many area residents who believe people in the surrounding neighbourhoods were not adequately consulted before the demolition permit was issued.

“Stores like Shoppers [Drug Mart] or The Gap are all over the world,” said Geiger. “We don’t want a street as individual as 17th to turn into something generic like Whyte Ave. in Edmonton.”

She also believes restaurants like Manie’s Pizzeria and Greek Cuisine add character to the neighbourhood, making it an attractive area to live in.

Archie Benekos, owner of Manie’s Pizzeria and Greek Cuisine in the Mount Royal Block said he is not bad-mouthing anyone, but expressed frustration at the effect the demolition permit has had on his business.

“We’re moving, but I can’t even believe we don’t know exactly when we’re moving,” said Benekos. “Then we don’t know exactly where we’ll be moving to.”

There have been delays in construction of their new restaurant at 4th St. and 21st Ave. SW. As a stop-gap measure, Manie’s will now be forced to move to a temporary location until their new location is finished.

Alderman King stated on the City of Calgary website that Shoppers Drug Mart intends to move into the Mount Royal block space, and that representatives from Shoppers flew into Calgary for a meeting with her.

Shoppers has not yet issued a statement confirming their intention to move into the space.

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