By Bob Merchant
Frederick B. Hunter has ably provided the research and the story of Bankview from the late eighteen hundreds to the current date.
My wife and I moved to Calgary in 1972, and after a year in a 13th Avenue SW apartment, purchased our little home on 22nd Avenue. We were new to Calgary, new to home ownership, and to a new (to us) community.
In 1973, Calgary was about 380,000 people, and the big energy shortage was just starting. Rents were averaging $175 a month for a nice one bedroom (first month free, and parking for $25 a month more), and houses on large lots near downtown could be purchased for as low as $15,000.
Bankview was an interesting site for a young architect. It was very affordable, it was hilly, leading to interesting views, winter driving (and parking) conditions, sun orientation, and site solutions. Bankview had large trees, established landscaping, and several mini-parks. However, in 1973 it also had the typical municipal plan of the era. It had two land use districts (zoning), dividing the community north to south. East of the lane between 17A Street and 18th Street was all R4 which typically allows four stories of apartment, often above a partially underground floor of parking, and west of this line was all R2 which typically allows for one freestanding house intended as a dwelling place for one family on each propety, except for a bit along 17th Avenue. Our “new” home was right on this line, on the R2 side. It was actually a 1910 bungalow, on a full lot, view of the city, three giant poplars complete with sticky fruit and a ton of fluff every spring. A major function of the Community Association at that time was to support local hockey and softball teams.
There was a very active baseball diamond and hockey rink beside the hall, built by volunteers, and included Bankview uniforms and change rooms in the hall basement. Tom and Ida Dunford, residents on 23rd Avenue and 16A street ran the sports programs as well as the community hall. In 1973, there still was a large commercial greenhouse located at 16th St. and 24th Avenues. There is a natural spring and water course from 26th Avenue and 17th Street, right through to 19th Avenue and 15th Street. Most of the surface water has been channeled into underground sewers, but many developers in this area are often surprise by water tables only centimeters below their lawns. We hit water just below the floor slab when we added the Hall washroom extensions in 1990. The apartment east of the hall was delayed for a year while they tried to pump out their basement for parking garage construction. Their final solution was to freeze the walls so they could pour the concrete in dry conditions.
In 1973, there was only a little construction in the community, perhaps one or two apartments and several homes being fixed and repaired. Much of Bankview was 25’ lots, this meant many single family residents in very affordable housing.
In 1976, the energy crunch hit, with big fuel shortages, and along comes an energy boom in Alberta. Within months, as oil revenue rolled in to the province, the in-migration started and the population of Bankview surged. Dormant undeveloped R4 sites all over town started to be redeveloped to meet the housing demand. Rents surged upward and development boomed. At the same time the city of Calgary began a process of updating the community plans and started a process of developing Area Redevelopment Plans (ARP). The first two developed were Bankview and Hillhurst Sunnyside.
By 1978, the residents of Bankview, met developers, realtors, bulldozers, excavators, and construction crews. Small homes on R4 lots were razed as lots were consolidated for larger four storey apartments. The residents soon banded together, under the leadership of Harvey and Marg Buckmaster. They began working with the City Planners to protect the heritage parts of the community, protect the open spaces, defend the schools, and minimize the impacts of new traffic flows from further south and west. It is at this point that our household got involved with the re-planning process. Heritage areas were identified for conservation, limits to density were established for the overall community, existing high density developments were outlined, and transition districts between the two were established. A block by block, and in some places, lot by lot, analysis was undertaken and a new ARP established. Every resident in the community was contacted and massive support by the residents was verified.
To be continued in the next issue…The Story of Bankview’s ARP, Part 2: Development in our Community