May 8, 2018 5:47 pm

Calgary councillors consider whether to move back into historic city hall

The renovation work on Calgary's historic city hall is covered in mystery. May 8, 2018.

Aurelio Perri, NewsTalk770
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The work continues on the restoration of historic Calgary City Hall but when it’s complete, its tenants may or may not move back in.

In 2015, city council approved $34 million to deal with the crumbling sandstone exterior and to perform detailed interior work.

Currently shrouded in secrecy (and with a special covering), work on historic city hall began in 2016 and will continue until 2020.

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READ MORE: Multi-million dollar repairs approved for Calgary’s historic City Hall

Councillors voted to look at the options available and the costs involved if they went back to their old offices or the implications if they did not.

Councillor Ray Jones is chair of the co-ordinating committee of the councillors’ office.

“Even though it’s two years away, we have to direct administration to come up with scenarios — which is the best route to go? Whether we stay where we’re at or whether we move back and if we don’t move back, what do we do with city hall?” he said.

Jones says part of the reason to look at the options is that councillors may have more staff than they did when they moved out of their offices for the construction.

The Ward 5 councillor said an informal poll of his colleagues shows a consensus to go back to the historic building.

“There’s some members of council like me — I don’t care if we go back or stay where we are but there’s those that want to go back because it’s historic city hall.”

When construction began councillors moved to the adjacent administration building.

READ MORE: Sandstone crumbles from Calgary’s Historic City Hall

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he would love to go back to the old building but admits there are issues with the space for staff.

“I really like the idea of the tie to history of that old building and the fact the decisions we make today are in an unbroken thread from 1884 to when that building was completed in 1911. To me, that’s really important but I also have to take into account functional use for my staff.”

There is one thing Nenshi says he’s clear he doesn’t want to see happen.

“I don’t want to see it become a gallery or museum; I want it to be an active work space.

“I want it to be an active work space… that is about the mechanism and functioning of government in the city,” he said. “You know certainly there’s some beautiful spaces in there we could use for event space function space. I know there would be a lot of people who would like to get married in that building, for example, but that can’t be the primary use.”

READ MORE: Flood damage could keep historic City Hall closed for weeks

A preliminary report about possible options will come back to council in June.

Historic city hall includes more than 15,000 pieces of sandstone and nearly all of them require restoration. Some will have to be replaced entirely.

Other work being done includes dealing with the building’s foundation, roof and verandas. New windows are also being installed to match the original and structural steel will be placed inside the clock tower.

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