Alberta Historical Resources Foundation meets in St. Albert

Alberta Historical Resources Foundation

The Board of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation met in St. Albert, Friday November 29th and Saturday November 30th. The Board met to adjudicate grant applications for the Heritage Preservation Partnership Program, which supports:

In addition, the Foundation also considered grant applications from the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program, and the Alberta Main Street Program.

Starting on Friday afternoon at St. Albert Place, the major civic centre for the City of St. Albert, and a Douglas Cardinal-designed Municipal Historic Resource, the Board was greeted by Mayor Nolan Crouse. The mayor, a committed supporter of heritage, spoke eloquently about the City’s storied past since its founding as a Catholic mission over 150 years ago. He also brought the AHRF Board members up to date about recent heritage happenings in St. Albert.

Departing from Council Chambers, Board members embarked upon a tour of the Musee Heritage Museum. They then headed out into the snow under a bright Alberta blue sky to visit the Little White School and the City’s Mission Hill area, home to multiple Provincial Historic Resources, including the Bishop’s Palace and the Father Lacombe Chapel.

Members of the AHRF Board and Alberta Culture Staff outside of the Father Lacombe Chapel, St. Albert.
AHRF Board Members and Alberta Culture staff outside of the Father Lacombe Chapel in St. Albert; (Left to Right: Bob Gaetz, Leah Millar, Don Totten, Laurel Hallliday, Board Chair Fred Bradley, Tom Clark, AHRF Grants Program Coordinator Carina Naranjilla, Executive Director Matthew Wangler, and Manager, Municipal Heritage Services, Matthew Francis)

The afternoon was capped off with an informative tour of St. Albert’s designated Alberta Grain Company Grain Elevator complex.

Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator, St. Albert
Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator, St. Albert

The Board got down to business with Saturday’s meeting, where numerous grant applications were reviewed and key funding decisions made. Board Chair Fred Bradley was very pleased to welcome the Honourable Heather Klimchuk, Minister of Culture, who joined the meeting for a lunchtime discussion of key issues. Minister Klimchuk offered thanks to the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation for their dedicated work, and recognized several members who are completing their terms of service.

Stay tuned to RETROactive for further updates on funding decisions made by the Board at their November meeting!

Heritage Conservation and Sustainable Community Development

Every year, Alberta Culture staff come together for an annual Fall Gathering. This year’s event, which took place in early October, was jam packed with unique information and workshops, designed to offer us practical help in our work. The event allows us as members of the Alberta Public Service to get to know other staff from across the Ministry of Culture and to learn more about what we all do each day for Albertans. It’s our goal that this directly translates into the work we do each day to help engage communities and people across the province.

This year, I joined Larry Pearson, Director of Historic Places Stewardship with the Historic Resources Management Branch, to offer a workshop on “Heritage Conservation and Sustainable Community Development.” We didn’t just want to show our colleagues what we do to protect historic places, we wanted to demonstrate how protecting these places contributes to the “triple bottom-line” of economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

Reuse-Reduce-Recycle

Since reducing, reusing, and recycling has become integrated into the normal lifecycle of our consumer goods, why not apply that common-sense principle to our built environment as well? As urbanist Jane Jacobs used to say, “new ideas need old buildings.” The key message was that “the greenest building is the one that’s already built.” 

Schematic drawing of the Lougheed Building (Provincial Historic Resource) in Calgary, which was a case study in the presentation.
Schematic drawing of the Lougheed Building (Provincial Historic Resource) in Calgary, which was a case study in the presentation.

So many people were interested in the presentation, that we thought it would be worth sharing here on RETROactive.

Click on the link below to open the presentation:

Fall Gathering – Heritage Conservation and Sustainable Community Development

Written by:  Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services

Forum 2013 – Thank you!

forum attendees 2013
Participants in the 7th Annual Municipal Heritage Forum, gathered at Knox Church in Old Strathcona, September 20th, 2013.

On behalf of our whole Municipal Heritage Services team, we would like to express our sincere thanks to all those of you who participated in this year’s Municipal Heritage Forum at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village and in the Old Strathcona Provincial Historic Area. The weather was gorgeous, we had fun together, and learned a lot about “The ABCs of Conservation.” 

Your contribution really helped to make the 7th Annual Municipal Heritage Forum a very positive event. We couldn’t have done it without you all! Whether you were presenting or just there to connect and share your local knowledge and experience, it all made a big difference.

You should see some of the great content from “The ABCs of Conservation,” including HD video of some of the Forum presentations, featured here on RETROactive over the next few weeks.

See you next year at Forum 2014! 

Heritage Forum 2013 – Save the Dates!

Strathcona Branch, Edomonton Public Library
Strathcona Branch, Edomonton Public Library

WHAT: Our 7th annual Municipal Heritage Forum!

WHERE: The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village and the Old Strathcona Provincial Historic Area

WHEN: Thursday September 19th at the Ukrainian Village & Friday September 20th in Old Strathcona

WHY: To help create a future for Alberta’s historic places.

While each year we try to carefully minimize scheduling conflicts with other important happenings on the heritage scene, sometimes overlaps occur. Some RETROactive readers will want to know that this year’s Forum is taking place at the same time and in the same fair city (Edmonton) as our friends from the Alberta Museums Association are hosting their Annual Conference. Please keep in mind that both the AMA Conference and our Municipal Heritage Forum allow for single-day registrations. This may allow some  attendees to maximize their trip to Edmonton to take in the best of both great events. We will also be co-hosting a reception with the AMA on Thursday evening, Friday 19th.

Full information on Forum 2013, schedules, and registration materials will be available soon! Stay tuned to RETROactive for details.

Main Street Conference Wrap-Up

A few weeks ago, I was live-blogging from the the U.S. National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Annual Main Street Conference. The conference is attended by leaders from hundreds of historic main street communities across North America. Here are some final thoughts, after returning home to Alberta.

2013 Main Street Conference

Culinary Revival in Historic Places

The final session of the Main Street Conference in New Orleans featured Robert St. John , a celebrity chef and authority on southern culture and food, as speaker. His humorous presentation focused on his hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. There is a lot of focus these days—and not only in New Orleans—on how culinary excellence works hand-in-hand with revitalizing historic main streets. The food scene—in all its dimensions—is major player in today’s “cultural economy.”

Robert’s presentation reminded me how a number of our historic Alberta Main Street communities are great places to enjoy good food in authentic, fun environments. In particular, his presentation reminded me of Downtown Lethbridge, where an exciting food and coffee culture has emerged over the past several years. Other places in Alberta are seeing great new restaurants, coffee-houses, artisan bakeries, micro-breweries, and fantastic food trucks enrich and enliven neighbourhoods, and jump-start uses for historic buildings. There are some tremendous entrepreneurial opportunities out there. The historic vibe, feel, and values in our traditional commercial districts only adds to the appeal.

Next Year in Detroit – Works in Progress!

Detroit will host the 2013 Main Street Conference.
Detroit will host the 2013 Main Street Conference.

The wrap-up session concluded with a presentation by next-year’s host city: Detroit, Michigan. Now, much ink has been spilt describing Detroit’s catastrophic urban decline over the past few decades. Hundreds of blocks of blighted houses and commercial buildings have been bulldozed due to the severity of the situation. But that is all changing. Detroit is using Main Street’s Four-Point Approach® to bring its downtown back from the ashes. Jane Jacobs said that “new ideas need old buildings,” and that is definitely part of what is happening in Detroit.

It’s inspiring to see what is happening around the world, but it’s even more exciting to see what’s happening across Alberta, in our own backyard. Stay tuned to RETROactive for updates on historic main street news from across the province.

Written by: Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services

The Rebirth of Upper Canal Street

Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services with Alberta Culture’s Historic Resources Management Branch, is live-blogging from the U.S. National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Annual Main Street Conference. The conference is attended by leaders from hundreds of historic main street communities across North America.

2013 Main Street Conference

Tuesday was the last full day of the formal conference, while Wednesday features a number of post-conference tours to various Main Street communities. I, however, will be travelling back to Edmonton on Wednesday, via Houston and Calgary. Seeing as I would miss the extended tours, I signed up to participate in a mobile workshop called “The Rebirth of Upper Canal Street,” which showcased the renewal of this 18th and 19th century neighbourhood which had endured decades of decline. Now, two distinct districts are emerging along Upper Canal, one with historic theatres, focusing on entertainment, and another focused on biomedical research and development.

New Orleans Civil Rights Heritage: Can it be Conserved?

Canal Street Streetcar
Canal Street Streetcar

A group of about 20 of us hopped on one of the great streetcars that continually traverse Canal Street, the major thoroughfare through downtown New Orleans. Our guide, the Director of the Downtown Development District of New Orleans, pointed out numerous places of interest within this complex environment. One such building was a now-empty Woolworth’s store, which we learned had been the epicentre of the early Civil Rights movement in Louisiana; this Woolworth’s lunch counter was one of the first to be de-segregated in the 1950s. Now, however, the building lays vacant, and is currently slated for demolition.

A Historic Entertainment District – Renaissance

Across LaSalle Street from Woolworth’s stands the early 20th century Saenger Theater. Damaged extensively during Katrina, but also ailing for some time before that, the theatre was in urgent need of a multi-million dollar rehabilitation if it was to have a future. Through application of historic tax-credit support, in addition to a comprehensive business plan for sustainability, that project is now well under way. I took a picture of the sign to indicate the number of partners – both public and private sector – involved in this massive endeavour. In approximately two years time, this once-great movie palace will again become a centre for performing arts in New Orleans, and will anchor future development on Upper Canal.

Joy Theatre, Upper Canal Street, New Orleans
Joy Theatre, Upper Canal Street, New Orleans

Across the Street from the Saenger Theatre is the Joy Theater, a 1940s Art Deco gem, now restored to its period of significance. The Joy has already become a popular centre for performing arts and is driving the district as an entertainment hot spot. To my eye, it also bears some resemblance to Alberta’s Garneau Theatre , a Municipal Historic Resource, located in Edmonton.

New Technologies and Bio-Innovation

On the next block up from the theatres, several older buildings have been re-purposed for use as medical and scientific research facilities, and new infill, including a multimillion dollar, highly advance centre for “Bio-Innovation,” has been developed. The Upper Canal area will also become home to a new Veteran’s Administration hospital, a 2 billion dollar initiative, replacing an existing hospital devastated by Katrina.

The tour concluded with discussion about the ingenuity and collaboration required to facilitate these projects. It was intriguing to see an area like Upper Canal – very much a work in progress – and to anticipated the future results of the work being undertaken today.

I’ll conclude my live-blogging from the Conference with one more post on the final plenary session. Stay tuned!

Monday Main Street Conference Update

Matthew Francis, Manager of Municipal Heritage Services with Alberta Culture’s Historic Resources Management Branch, is live-blogging from the U.S. National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Annual Main Street Conference. The conference is attended by leaders from hundreds of historic main street communities across North America.

2013 Main Street Conference

Monday’s conference sessions offered rich content from professionals seasoned in Main Street leadership in various contexts. I attended three:

  •  “Creative Collaboration Efforts Between Main Streets and Municipalities”
  •  “Font of Information: Successful Graphic Communication for Main Streets”
  •  “Authenticity as Economic Catalyst”

Each presentation inspired my enthusiasm and got me thinking on a deeper level. While I could write a lot about each of them (and did take copious notes – it was good stuff!), for this post, please allow me to just summarize a few of my ‘take-aways,” from the first session.

The focus was on collaboration between Main Street Organizations and local governments, which is 100% applicable to the kind of work we do in Alberta, with MHPP and our Alberta Main Street Program. The presenters, which included the Mayor of Washington, Missouri, a city manager, and a State Main Street Program administrator with over 20 years experience, provided some really practical case studies from their work in Missouri.

John Simmons described the 16 year process he went through to conserve a “Richardsonian Romanesque” bank building in downtown Sedalia, Missouri. Built in 1888, the building had changed hands numerous times, and had suffered a major fire in the 1990s, leaving it roofless for two years.

Missouri Trust Building in Sedalia, Missouri
Missouri Trust Building in Sedalia, Missouri

John candidly described the efforts – including some failed partnerships in the past – that took place before the timing was right to make the conservation achievable. Even now, while considerable work has been done, the actual project is only beginning. John promised an update in two years on the “Missouri Trust Building.” Even though the story is still unfolding, it was a testimony to the tenacity required, sometimes over many years, for a community to achieve its goals of revitalization and heritage conservation. We’ve seen similar challenges with significant historic places in Alberta, and I can think of a few other major projects that may involve these same ingredients – partnerships, creativity, and commitment – if they are to garner both conservation and business success. Not all heritage conservation projects become success stories, but the key message from this session was that greater viability and sustainability is often achieved through partnerships.

After Monday afternoon’s two other excellent sessions, we had the evening free to explore the city a little. Here is a lagniappe of my photos from the remarkable French Quarter, steeped in history with a deep connection to Canada (well, pre-Confederation New France). Enjoy!