Monday, November 26, 2012

Cecil Hotel - Keep or Demolish?

The Cecil Hotel, Calgary
In 1912, the Cecil Hotel was constructed in order to accommodate the growing number of men and women, all coming to Calgary to enjoy the Booming Era or, the Age of Optimism.
A 100 years later and the building is one of Calgary's few pre-WWI hotels still standing.

But when it comes to the Cecil, it is not the word "Heritage" that first pops into mind - "Crime" is. The hotel is considered to have been a headquarters for drugs, violence and prostitution, with the police responding to an average of five calls a day. After being called to location 1,700 times in the year 2008, the Calgary Police Service, along with other services, filed for the closure of the hotel. Accepting the claim that the Cecil constituted a dangerous area, the City revoked the hotel's business licence. Police calls dropped by 91%.

Barred windows and peeling paint
Several month after shutting down the hotel, City Hall purchased the building for $10.9M; the decision was not unanimous. The plan was to turn it into either a parking lot or a retail space, with fair certainty that the building will be demolished. After all, most of the hotel's heritage was lost when the 1982-fire consumed much of the building's innards.

A general worn-out sense
Almost four years later, and still nothing has been done - despite the constant pleas from neighbouring residents and businesses. The complaints of it being an eyesore which gives a bad first impression of the City, seem to have little if any affect at all. It's hard to say whether it's because some still consider it to be salvageable, or whether it's because it was simply forgotten. The City must have its reasons; whatever those reasons are, it appears that the peeling paint, barred windows and closed doors will remain where they are for a little while longer.

The building is now a staging area for an LRT project

Currently, the hotel is being used as a staging area for an LRT project taking place nearby. Within the next year, the LRT project is due to be completed and what will then become of the old Cecil Hotel? Honestly, nobody knows. 

Some hope that the revitalization of the East Village will encompass the hotel, saving the building for what little heritage it has left. Some claim the Cecil has "bad juju" and should be destroyed as soon as possible. Some do not really care what will happen with the hotel.

The last century has taken its toll on the old Cecil Hotel
The consensus, however, seems to be that the hotel should be taken care of, one way or another.

What do you think? - Are you feeling sentimental for the history and heritage the old Cecil Hotel still holds? Are you a believer in bad vibes and want the building to be nonexistent? Are you under the opinion that the old building simply doesn't fit the current City of Calgary?

Is the old hotel compatible with the new city? ...

Let Us Know...

CBC; City Orders Troublesome Cecil Hotel Tavern Closed

CalgaryHerald; City Purchases Notorious Cecil Hotel

MetroNews; City Buys Cecil

CalgaryHerald; City Still Has No Plans for for old Cecil Hotel (Video)

660News; City Still Has No Plans for Cecil Hotel

NationalPost; Calgary's Cecil Hotel a Reminder of a Time of Evil, Death and Darkness

YahooNews; Notorious Flophouse and Crime Magnet Cecil Hotel Could Soon Meet the Wrecking Ball

CalgaryHerald; Cecil Hotel Should Go (Editorial)

Calgary Heritage Forum; Cecil Hotel (2008)


  1. Parking garage for the Calgary police services when they take over the drop-in center!

  2. What an opportunity! If I had the money I would buy the Cecil, restore it, add some kind of beautiful modern detail to the roof, like a glass atrium or roof top deck and turn it into a MIXED USE project. (SEE LE GERMAIN, or the NEW YORKER Hotel/apartments). Ground floor becomes a streetscape that welcomes people into their doors. A restaurant. A convenience store. Maybe the office of a security company. Whatever business owners have the guts and money to open their doors along such a traffic heavy part of downtown. With the right landscaping, paid underground-secure parking (probably unimaginably expensive), gutting and completely re-doing the structural and mechanical systems, I believe this building has the chance to become an artifact of a Calgary past, while also preserving some of our aesthetic architectural choices from times gone by. With a city fast filling with glass boxes, isn't it nice to see history sneak through?
    Have the 2nd floor and above be apartments and hotel rooms. Keep it a range of rents. Maybe it could qualify for low income housing. There are some great examples of this in Calgary tucked away the beltline.
    The "bad juju" feeling about the Cecil has less to do with the architecture of the building and everything to do with the poverty that is associated with that side of downtown. I drove around there today and to no surprise saw large groups of unshaven, most likely homeless, men. For a little lady like myself, the very thought of getting out of my vehicle at any time in this is completely unlikely. The truth, however, is that this part of downtown is incredibly walkable. It's right along the river. It just needs to be nice enough to invite the right kind of traffic. If the owners of that land treated the building with respect, I suspect that the people who frequent it, or live there, would pay that respect in return. Look at how we transformed Central Memorial Park. It's full of every kind of person in Calgary.

  3. Nice article. Thanks. I personally believe that it has rich heritage and should be saved. We are destroying to many historic structure in Calgary.