Billy’s News Shutters After More than 100 Years

  Photo: Google Street View

Photo: Google Street View

By Mario Toneguzzi

Iconic Calgary downtown retailer Billy’s News, which has been a city landmark business for more than 100 years, has closed its doors because of future redevelopment plans for the historic Lougheed Building.

The news magazine store, which was located at 604 1st St. S.W., had to close shop as the owner of the Lougheed Building is planning a future re-purposing of the site.

The owners of Billy’s News could not be reached for comment.

This is the third time in the past six years that downtown office building development has impacted the retailer.

In June 2012, it moved from the old Herald block, where it had resided for many years, to the Art Central building a couple of blocks away as the Herald structure was being demolished to make room for the new Brookfield Place office skyscraper.

  Photo: GOogle Maps

Photo: GOogle Maps

  Billy's News (Bottom Right) in Lougheed Centre Building. Photo: Google Maps

Billy's News (Bottom Right) in Lougheed Centre Building. Photo: Google Maps

  Lougheed Centre. Photo: Allied Properties REIT

Lougheed Centre. Photo: Allied Properties REIT

Then a few years later, the Art Central building was being demolished to make room for the new TELUS Sky office/residential tower.

Billy’s then found space to lease at the Lougheed Centre in 2014.

“Billy’s news was known as a legacy retailer having operated continually in various locations in downtown Calgary for over 100 years,” said Michael Kehoe, an Alberta-based retail specialist with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate in Calgary, which represented Billy’s in its leasing deals. “The firm fell victim to a changing media landscape, the soft economy in downtown Calgary and having been forced out of its past three locations over that past six years due to downtown redevelopment projects.

  Photo: Google Maps

Photo: Google Maps

“Perhaps the Billy’s brand may re-emerge in the future depending on the owner’s appetite to carry on.  The retail landscape is continuously changing and adapting to consumer demand and the pace of change has accelerated in the recent past especially in the downtown core.”

Allied Properties REIT acquired the Lougheed Building in 2010. It was built in 1911.

The building has 90,496 square feet of leasable space comprised of 69,557 square feet for office and 20,937 square feet of retail.

It was renovated in 2006/2007.

It’s a restored six-storey, brick and beam office/retail building with a finished penthouse and is now vacant.

“The Lougheed Building was our first acquisition in Calgary and remains a prized element of our portfolio in Western Canada. While we haven’t finalized our repositioning strategy for the property, we’re confident that it will be both socially and economically successful,” said Michael Emory, president and CEO of Allied Properties, in a statement.

The City of Calgary, on its inventory of historic resources website, describes the Lougheed Building as a“Classical Revival style building with a brick façade and elaborate cornice across the top.

“Senator James Lougheed, a prominent Calgary lawyer, businessman and politician, purchased thirty lots in downtown Calgary from the C.P.R. in 1884, and saw his land become the central core area of the city. He remained active in development, and in 1911 he built this six-storey brick structure at the corner of 1 Street and 6 Avenue SW.,” says the City.

“The architect was D.S. McIlroy, also the designer of the First Baptist Church. A large portion of the building was occupied by the Grand Theatre Opera House (for a time known as the Sherman Grant Theatre). The Grand Theatre was used for worship by both Central United Church and Knox United Church while they were rebuilding. Besides the theatre, there were originally stores on the ground floor, commercial sample rooms on the next two storeys, and two and three-room living suites on the top floors.

“The heritage value of the Lougheed Block lies in its representation of Calgary's tremendous commercial growth prior to World War One. The block served as a major centre of commercial activity for most of the twentieth century. It is a good example of the Chicago Style of commercial architecture, which embodied the sense of optimism in Alberta's economy. One of the few remaining examples of this style of architecture in Calgary, it is a familiar landmark in downtown Calgary.”

Mario+Toneguzzi+Headshot.jpg

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.

 

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Mario Toneguzzi

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.