A grocery store in Sunnyside located at 802 2nd AVE NW Calgary, Alta, set for demolition despite the efforts made by Robert Froese and members of the Eden Project to save historic building.
Froese, purchased the building in June of 2014 with intentions of making the property a rental for income after retirement.
“Initially my plan was too demolish it but when I saw some of the neat aspects of the store and heard the community stories, I spent time and money investigating the restoration,” said Froese.
Froese bought the property from a family who had owned and operated the grocery store for about 70 years; the store has not been operated for the last 30 years.
The deteriorating building was boarded up; Froese was unable to see the inside prior to purchasing it because the family thought it would be demolished regardless.
Froese had a goal to pursue his passions of architecture and social issues; he decided to make the building into a project.
The Eden project manages an on-site urban garden. Before Froese became the owner of the property members of The Eden Project would do regular yard keep up for the previous owners.
When Froese first began introducing the art to the building some individuals tagged the building with the statement “artists are the shock troops of gentrification”.
The building was tagged often with graffiti. Once the murals were painted the graffiti seemed to become less.
The impact of the old building’s new look was nothing but positive.
Chloe Martin has been a resident of Sunnyside since she was 13.
Martin had never seen the store in operation but she did watch the artists paint the murals.
Martin said that many times people tagged the building it was covered with a patchy paint job. She is appreciative for murals because the building doesn’t look as tattered and ugly.
“I like seeing the art on the building, every time I walk by I can pick out something I didn’t notice before,” said Martin.
Seniors in the neighborhood also appreciate the moderate art because it gives an uplifting feeling.
“It can really brighten someone’s day, the colours alone make a person feel happy,” expressed senior man who wishes to not be names.
As Froese works on the property he engages with community members who always seem to have positive things to say.
Froese likes to chat with as many people as possible, this way he knows the positive impact the project has had on the community.
“We feed off each other with inspiration to make Sunnyside a better place and to have a positive impact on others through kindness and random acts of property improvements,” said Froese.
Initially painting a mural on the side of the building was to do to The Eden Project a favor as they had arranged it. It was also a way of potentially reducing tagging on the building.
Painting the mural has now evolved into letting graffiti artists to express themselves.
“They are so desperate for space to express themselves that they have even painted over one of their pieces,” said Froese.
Despite Froese efforts to save the building and make it community project the historic building must be demolished.
Unfortunately it was left to deteriorate to far and is now beyond repair.
The roof has moisture damage; there is no basement under part of building, no insulation, and single pane windows. It would be very costly and the building would essentially be rebuilt.
Froese has a new plan though. It will still involve the community and have a great positive impact.
“I can do something, that while not historical, will have more functionality and a greater positive impact on the community,” said Froese
People in the community of Sunnyside are disappointed that the building has to be demolished but cannot wait to see what the new project has to offer.
“Art of all types are inspiring to me, I am going to hate to see the building leave; so much work went into it; it is so nice o look at” said Martin
Froese has a new plan believes it will have just as big of an impact on the community.
“The goal is to replace neighborhood commercial, even though the economics may not be great; to create a functional community gathering place on the ground floor,” said Froese.
Froese has not only inspired the community with his ambition to make Sunnyside a better place but he has learned lessons himself through himself.
The Eden project might be being demolished but in time there will something new for the community.
One of the local graffiti artists (wishes not to be named) who has often tagged dumpsters and electrical boxes out of desperation for outdoor canvases hopes for a large area for local graffiti and street artists to have free range to spray on.
He would really like to see ugly tagging stopped and be able to showcase what real graffiti or street art is.
“Maybe having something to legally create art on would reduce the ugly tagging of electrical boxes.”