CALGARY -- Calgary’s historic Inglewood neighbourhood — famous for its Edwardian heritage buildings, restaurants and unique vendors — could soon be overshadowed by a new, contemporary highrise. 

On Monday, Calgary city councillors are expected to hold a public hearing and vote on whether or not to approve a $50 million, 12-storey building, which is twice as high as is currently allowed in the area. 

A firm called Rndsqr (pronounced round square) wants to build on the used car lot located at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 12th Street S.E. The highrise would be nestled up against the more than 100 year-old Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce building, which the firm also owns. 

The mixed-use building would include a unique design of steel beams, creating patterns of glass diamonds and triangles. The overall design has become part of the debate, but height remains the largest concern. 

Council will need to approve the building’s height on Monday because it exceeds the limit of six stories on new buildings in the zone. City administration has recommended councillors support the exemption, but several community members are still against the changes. 

Opponents of the Project 

Inglewood Business Improvement Area chair Dan Alard says an interim report done by an independent firm notes the building’s height will have significantly adverse impacts on the character and pedestrian experience of the street and on neighbouring properties. 

“The BIA opposes the Rdnsqr application due to its height and it being released prior to an approved Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP),” he said. 

“We want to stress that there is significantly more land off of Ninth Avenue, even closer to the future Green Line LRT station where there is ample opportunities for greater densities, greater heights and bold architectural designs.”

The BIA says its information on height impacts was obtained from the Toronto Urban Land Institute. The report was paid for by local philanthropist, Jim Hill, who has built two buildings in the Inglewood area. 

“Given the obvious opportunity for lobbyists to cry influence and bias, we had Jim sign a statutory declaration stating he will have no influence on the report and further stating he would have zero contact with the urban planning company,” Alard said. 

“The BIA also signed a statutory declaration noting zero influence on the results and further that the results will be the BIA’s official opinion.”

Area Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said the result of the vote — whether it's yes or no — won't destroy the neighbourhood.

"For me the non-subjective argument really boils down to heritage and that’s what I’ve pushed with anyone who will listen because at the end of the day you think it’s too high or not, the style is good or it’s not, these are all subjective calls," he said.

"For me what it really boils down to is heritage and the question of heritage flows into how we approve buildings and specifically consider what will protect, save and celebrate the heritage inventory that makes Inglewood great today.

"The next question is how do we approve buildings with in mind what is contributing to the heritage of the future for the next 100 years to come."

The final report, which is anticipated to be released in August, will examine the potential impacts of proposed local area planned heights from a build form perspective and will write recommendations regarding height and urban design guidelines that will minimize impacts. 

Meanwhile, the BIA’s strategy to present an unbiased opinion is not sitting well with members of the city’s planning commission. 

“I do not support an unsolicited third party peer review of the City of Calgary administration’s planning work, or the city’s properly engaged consultants, on major planning policy such as local area plans,” said James Scott, citizen member of Calgary’s planning commission.

Scott noted in a document to the city that he fully supports the bylaw to exempt height restrictions on Inglewood. 

“The City has an established engagement process in place and allowing an outside component external to established process seems counterproductive," he said.