Today it finally started.
Demolition began on the old Ant Hill Fabric building. Prior to being the Ant Hill Fabric building, long ago in the 1950s it was a Safeway store (the largest one north of the river).
The roots of the building’s demise have been percolating away for most of the past decade. It was just a matter of time.
In 2004 the building on 10th Street near 2nd Avenue NW was sold to the Calgary Parking Authority. Approximately a year later during the summer of 2006 the owners of the neighbouring Lido Café, the Calgary Parking Authority and a couple developers talked about a new 12-storey mixed use development (retail, office and residential) that they were planning. It was to be substantially larger in footprint than the current project. Originally this was planned to cross over the back alley to 9A Street to include the area where the newly-built condo (seen in the background of the photo below to the left) which adjoins the C-Train tracks. As part of this project, it was also planned to include an extra three floors of underground short-term parking for the neighbourhood.
Obviously, that deal fell through. Most likely the 2008 worldwide economic slowdown caused by the sub-prime mortgage crisis contributed, like other development projects in the city at that time.
It was described in a FastForward Weekly article written in late 2010, “(the building) has mostly been a shell (since 2004), except for an occasional art market”.
Referenced in the FFWD article mentioned above, in 2008 the space was leased out to a group called Market Collective for their initial sale. They continued to call this home for their bi-monthly (if I remember correctly) weekend long pop-up sales. The vendors that showed there were a mixed-bag of artists, craftspersons, artisans and small boutique owners. During the sale often there were musicians who would perform as well. It was an interesting event and brought a lot of people to the community that otherwise potentially may not have come otherwise.
This was Market Collective’s home for its sales until November 2012.
At that time, the newspapers and social media were aflutter with news that the pre-Christmas sale was cancelled. There was a lot of back and forth that happened at that time. Solutions were offered for the sale including the use of an underground parkade at City Hall and other sites as well. In the end they moved to a vacant auto dealership building in Forest Lawn. This place which they occupied for a few sales. They have had a number of different locations for the sale since that time.
Outside of the Market Collective, there were other arts related uses contemplated or considered for this space – some of which I was party to and others which I was not.
It had the potential to be a very interesting space for the visual arts. For whatever reason it never really delivered, except as a selling venue for some artisans and a graffiti wall for others (see photo below taken yesterday, or Sunday).
The Ant Hill building will soon fade from sight and our collective memories, just as the Carpenter’s Hall and the Arusha Centre across 10th Street from the Ant Hill building have done. Those buildings are now levelled within the past week or so. Both the Carpenter’s Hall and the Arusha Centre also played a role as venues or part of a support network for art and music events in the city over the decades.
We know that both projects will be condo developments – The Lido (the Anthill site0 and Kensington (the Carpenter’s Union Hall and Arusha Centre site). Soon we will be seeing what the future of these two sites will look like.
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Addendum (2014 October 23)
Earlier today I was in the area and noticed that the entire Ant Hill Fabrics Building has been leveled. Now all that needs to be done is to remove the remainder of the building demolition refuse and start digging.
Also today I talked to an artist who reminded me that on the Carpenter’s Union Hall and Arusha site was another building. In that building was a couple short-lived galleries. He had his first show in one of the galleries. I will call them parallel galleries and there have been a few of these type of spaces around. They are very hard to define. I never did figure out who owned or operated them, even though I attended a number of openings at both spaces. These two spaces were called Resolution Gallery (the gallery that was in the location for the longest amount of time) and another short-term gallery called White Lodge Art Gallery. I failed to mention these two galleries previously as there was no construction hoarding surrounding these two buildings, right up to the time that the buildings were demolished.
I would like to hear from someone involved with these two galleries. Please use the contact page to get in touch. Thanks.