Lacombe’s Historic Main Street named Best Street in Canada.
The City of Lacombe’s historic main street was just named Best Street by the Great Places in Canada competition. The Great Places in Canada competition is sponsored by the Canadian Institute of Planners, annually. Lacombe’s Historic Main Street was shortlisted in the Best Street category by popular vote. It was then selected as the winner by a panel of experts from the Canadian Institute of Planners. We’re thrilled that one of Alberta’s historic main streets has received national recognition.
You may recognise Lacombe’s main street—50th Avenue in Lacombe is one of Alberta’s iconic streetscapes. Most buildings in downtown Lacombe were constructed in the decade before the First World War. A building bylaw, aimed at limiting the destruction that a fire could bring, required that anything built in the downtown be constructed of brick. Many of the Edwardian-styled commercial buildings—such as the Flat Iron Building—are Alberta icons. Several of the buildings, such as the Flat Iron Building, the M & J Hardware Building and the Campbell Block are Provincial Historic Resources.
These landmarks would most likely have been lost if not for the foresight and dedication of Lacombe’s citizens. The owners of these gems took a great deal of pride undertaking the conservation work often needed. Lacombe’s forward-looking business community was an early participant in the Main Street Program (from 1987 to 1993). The rehabilitation work undertaken during this time is an important reason why so many of these buildings remain standing.
The city has since developed policies to ensure that conservation of its historic commercial district is an important part of its’ development process. The city recently completed both a Downtown Area Redevelopment and Urban Design Plan—which features detailed plans for maintaining the streetscape. The city also recently adopted a Heritage Management Plan (with the help of the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program) ensuring that locally significant historic places are inventoried and can be designated as Municipal Historic Resources.
What is really fitting about this award is how it recognises the community’s involvement in these special places. 50th Avenue is not a museum piece, but a destination people go to meet friends, shop and celebrate. This is a lively area with many restaurants and businesses. The Lacombe and District Historical Society operate a museum on the main floor of the Flat Iron Building. Social service agencies and the provincial government have offices on the street or nearby. Popular annual events—the Light Up the Night Festival, the Lacombe Culture and Harvest Festival, and Lacombe days, among others—draw large crowds downtown annually.
Recent development has reinforced 50th avenue’s central place in this community. Lest We Forget Park, where the annual Remembrance Day ceremony is held, is just at the end of the commercial area. The Lacombe Memorial Centre, a (relatively) new development, contains the public library, meeting rooms and a hall, reinforce 50th avenue’s centre place in Lacombe’s daily life.
Jennifer Kircher, Lacombe’s Planner, told me about how important individual community members were in winning this award. “The Community got really excited about it”, she said. During the voting period people she hadn’t yet met came up to Jennifer to tell her they voted.
I’m sure this is just the beginning of our work with Lacombe. The re-launch of the Alberta Main Street Program brings a great opportunity to again work with Lacombe on conserving one of Alberta’s pre-eminent main streets.
Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.