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.
With the plan complete, it was submitted for Council approval. Long standing Alderman Barb Scott, a resident of our community, guided the process and quietly backed the plan. It was approved by council December 7th, 1981. The plan was interesting in that it clearly identified conservation areas of single family homes while not freezing out redevelopment. Importantly, also identified was a need for more green space, and a need for some key restrictions on through routes through the community. Commercial areas were to remain, but an effort was made to limit the extension of the strip commercial development up both 17th Avenue and 14th Street. Key open spaces were protected and areas for expansion of existing spaces were proposed. Key locations for mini-parks and playground were set out.
The ARP has had two or three minor amendments since then, but in general, the plan has held up well. The main impact was to immediately provide stability for the conservation areas, and assured development potential for the higher density areas. The long term impact of the density blend has been to provide Bankview with probably the most diverse combination of housing types, characteristics, and lifestyles in the City.
As a Public Service Committee and a development review group, the Bankview representatives have tried to stay away from discussions of style and appearance, but have insisted on projects that recognize the conservation areas, respect their neighbours, and add values to the community as a whole.
Major infrastructure improvements have been implemented since the introduction of the ARP including, Nimmons Park between 17 and 17A Streets at 19th Avenue has been created with the Katie Ohie sculpture landmark, the Buckmaster Park between 21st and 22nd Avenue created, and now Buckmaster Park south between 22nd and 23th Avenue.The closure of 19th Avenue at 17A Street, 16A at 21st Avenue, and now 20th Ave at Buckmaster Park has greatly reduced traffic and allowed for a continuation of the park and a place to bring back hockey, albeit ball hockey, to our community.
The Bankview Community Association, Public Service/Development Committee still receives 10 to 12 development proposals a year, and an active committee of up to 10 community volunteers takes turns reviewing them and meeting with the developers under the able guidance of the Development Committee Chair. Other projects assisted by this committee include the continued development of the new parks, traffic studies, heritage street names, and by-law enforcement.