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Incentives proposed to declare more Calgary properties historic resources

Calgary City Hall.
Calgary City Hall. Global News

Calgary city council’s Planning and Urban Development committee is recommending a new set of tools when it comes to heritage planning and protecting more properties from possible demolition.

A report to committee on Wednesday says significant progress has been made over the past 12 years, however, most heritage properties remain unprotected from significant alteration or demolition.

Read more: 40-year-old Calgary home gets historic resource designation

In the report there are three policy planning tools being proposed to try and incentivize the conservation of heritage assets in the city through certain land-use zoning changes.

There are also financial incentives being offered in the request for an additional $2 million for a grant program for non-residential and residential properties.

It is anticipated another 38 historic designations would come over the next seven years from the addition to the grant program, which would require participants to acquire matching funding.

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Councillor Druh Farrell said this work has been decades in the making.

“It’s really important work if we’re going to take our historic resource preservation seriously.”

The Ward 7 councillor says the tools are finally being put in place to do that.

“It’s a long-standing promise that we really haven’t been able to fill for one reason or the other.”

Read more: Towers threaten ‘small town’ character in Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood: residents

However, there was some push back on boosting the grant program at this time.

“Unfortunately, the situation in the city and the world as it stands is a not a good one for finances,” said Councillor Peter Demong, who supports historic preservation but not this financial ask. “I don’t believe that right now is when we should be looking at spending money.”

Councillor Evan Woolley, who represents a large portion of the inner city and older buildings, said Calgary over the last few decades has lost so much of it’s identity.

“That identity is around the built form that describes our history and through the downturn is when we lost a lot of that. The risk of doing nothing is that we continue to lose that identity.”

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Not going forward to city council at this time is a proposal for a tax credit program where owners would get a break on their property taxes for designating their properties as a historic resource.

Ian Harper, a senior planner with the city, says boosting funding to the Historic Resource Conservation grant is a better option.

“The boost to the conservation grant is a matching grant that will serve both as an important conservation tool parallel with the policy tools but also an important economic stimulus tool.”

Harper said that jobs would be created as people move to designate their properties and hire people to do the work to renovate their properties.

The plan goes to city council for approval on July 20.