New Kensington Legion a ‘beacon of hope’ for legions across Canada.
New Kensington Legion a ‘beacon of hope’ for legions across Canada
It doesn’t take more than a glance to see the stark contrast between the former windowless, one-storey, red-brick Kensington Legion and its replacement — a modern, four-storey, glass-encased building just steps away.
The new home of one of Canada’s largest Legion branches, North Calgary Branch No. 264 at 1918 Kensington Rd., was unveiled Tuesday with about 150 guests. Not only does the building serve as a welcoming site for veterans, but it’s also the first sustainable legion of its kind, generating a triple-revenue stream.
“It’s good for our veterans, our membership, the community and the city,” said Mark Barham, Kensington Legion treasurer.
“The old legions were built in the heyday when windows weren’t allowed if you were going to serve alcohol,” Barham said. “So you go from that bunker mentality to where we are today, where there are patios and you need to attract young people. That’s what we’ve done with this building.”
Wrapping the edge of the new Kensington Legion, taking up parts of the first and second floor, is a new restaurant called 1918 Tap & Table, profits from which will benefit community initiatives. On the second floor is the Legion members’ lounge, and on the third and fourth floors is commercial office space, all of which has already been leased out, said Barham.
Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell said the new building serves as a model for legions across the country.
“Most of them are struggling financially and membership wise,” she said. “They are land rich, cash poor and need a more sustainable model.
This (development) has been a real beacon of hope. But it wasn’t built without difficulties. It took six years to complete the project, with two failed land-swap attempts and criticism from nearby residents who voiced concerns about building height, increased traffic and density in the inner-city neighbourhood.
Despite the controversy, the redevelopment plan was unanimously approved by council in February 2016. It was built by the Truman Development Corp.
“This project, no question, was challenging. But it was worth it,” said Farrell, who said some criticism lingers.
“You’ll always have curmudgeons here or there that are going to be against change, but we’ve moved forward to ensure we have viability and we give back to the community,” said Barham.
He’s said he’s already seen success with the new building with 304 new members, who joined during construction between September 2016 and January.
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