About The Project:

The City of Calgary is in the early stages of a project to repurpose the Historic Fire Hall 1 (HFH1) (140 6 Ave. S.E.) and North-West Travellers (NWT) (515 1 St. S.E.) in the city centre as an Arts and Culture Hub.

In 2022, The City of Calgary completed a Master Plan and Technical Feasibility that looked at key findings from the Arts & Culture Needs Assessment. The Master Plan and Technical Feasibility Study identified several potential arts and culture uses for the properties. The City is partnered with Volly, an event programmer who manages the programming and activations in the HFH1 courtyard. Volly will continue to host family-friendly programming in this space until the end of December 2023.

The City has also released an Expression of Interest (EOI), that will close on January 12, 2024 to create an Arts and Culture Hub with a complimentary commercial component. We are seeking one or more proponents who can create a fiscally sustainable operating model to creating a destination that will be active most times of the day and evening and provide opportunities for gathering and enjoying visual and performing arts. The project will support the Downtown Strategy through placemaking activation that supports a diversity of Arts and Culture groups while providing space for artists and arts groups to continue to grow and evolve as part of Calgary arts and culture scene.

Since both buildings are protected heritage resources, any renovation for adaptive reuse needs to consider the identified documented character-defining elements and be in keeping with the “Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.”

The goals for the project include:

  • Support Calgary’s arts and culture community with a unique, affordable, and accessible downtown arts and culture hub.
  • Improve the area’s vibrancy and connectivity through site activation.
  • Build social, cultural, and economic resiliency downtown.
  • Improve opportunities for local artists at all stages of their careers to have local studio/workspace and to display a variety of artworks, from temporary to permanent, reflecting a variety of mediums and a variety of art practices.
  • Attract private sector investment and diversification and conserve historic Calgary landmarks.
  • Align with the 2016 Council intention to repurpose the site as an ‘arts and cultural hub’. Strive for sustainability and climate risk adaptation (i.e., LEED, Passivhaus certification standards.)
  • Promote social diversity and inclusivity at this important civic asset in Calgary’s downtown.

About The Site

The Historic Fire Hall 1 (HFH1) and North-West Travellers Building (NWT) are City owned provincially designated heritage buildings located next to each other in a central downtown location. The decision to acquire NWT in 2016 was based upon the direction by Council for the building to fulfill a cultural space commitment previously earmarked for the South Block development of The Bow Tower. These buildings became vacant from lease termination in 2019 (HFH1) and 2020 (NWT).

  • Historic Fire Hall 1

    140 6 Avenue SE
    Historic Fire Hall 1 is a City of Calgary owned 1911 heritage building. The building was vacated by the Calgary Fire Department in 1973 and was leased to Budget Rent-a-Car from 1989 to 2019. The building is currently vacant.

  • North West Travellers

    515 1 Street SE
    North-West Travellers is a City of Calgary owned 1912 heritage building. The building was formerly leased for a variety of uses, including restaurant, office, non-profit and educational activities. The building is currently vacant.

The City, through the Historic Buildings Program, completed a heritage assessment in 2021 that included conservation plans, building condition assessments, digital recordings of the buildings and photographic records of their heritage assets. Any future activations of the building and site will have to gain provincial approvals as they are provincially designated heritage resources.

In 2020, The City worked with the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) to identify opportunities for short-, medium- and long-term activations of the Historic Fire Hall 1 and North-West Travellers. With the success of the initial activations, The City is partnering with Volly to continue to create interest in this site.

In 2020, City of Calgary Arts & Culture conducted targeted stakeholder engagement of the local arts and culture community regarding a downtown Calgary arts and culture needs assessment. The intention of the needs assessment was to identify arts and culture space needs and amenity gaps in downtown Calgary, and to determine how to connect artists and cultural groups to the Historic Fire Hall 1 and North-West Travellers buildings and shared site.

View the What We Heard report from the Arts and Culture Assessment phase.

Next Steps

The Expression of Interest was released November 6, 2023 and will close on January 12, 2024. Once closed, all proposals will be carefully reviewed, and a successful proponent(s) will be invited to go on to the next stage of project development. The evaluation phase will be wrapped up by the end of February 2024.