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Calgary says goodbye to Eau Claire Market as expropriated residents fight on

These are the final hours for Eau Claire Market, and the final days for residents of a nearby townhouse complex.

The long-troubled mall will close for good at the end of the month, as crews prepare to knock it down to begin construction of the Green Line.

Friday, passersby or users of the mall expressed a sense of loss; but also possibly a dash of optimism for what it might become.

“We were just talking about how Eau Claire’s closing,” said one passerby, “and how sad it is that they didn’t make a go of it.”

“I was just saying,” said a second person, “this is so beautiful, like along the river. How could that not survive? I don’t get it. It’s just amazing that it had to close.”

Opened in 1993, the mall had challenges from the start. Envisioned as a kind of Calgary version of Vancouver’s booming Granville Island, the downtown mall never quite found its footing. Various redevelopment plans have existed since as far back as 2007, but they kept getting put on hold.

In the meantime, the mall played host to the Calgary International Film Festival and served as a kind of community hub for a variety of summer festivals, along with an eclectic collection of retail shops, a popular bar, a barber shop, a blood bank, an Italian restaurant, a sushi joint and a Gold’s Gym for many years.

Whatever slim hope there was of a turnaround was dashed by construction and the uncertainty brought about by Green Line plans.

“I would expect more activity even in, you know, with the development that they have going around the area,” said a Calgarian. “It’s been quite a few years that you haven’t had the accessibility to the area.”

‘Adversarial process’

Residents of River Run Town Homes are also in their final days after the city expropriated the 23 units, taking title last October.

Some owners are still in a legal fight for fair compensation for the unique properties.

“To have your home taken away, it’s like losing a family member,” said Patrick Lindsay. “It’s something you feel every day. It brings you joy and having it taken away is tough.”

In a scathing report last summer, a public inquiry found the city’s approach “unduly inflexible”, called out “rigid refusals” and said it leveraged “unequal bargaining power.”

Compensation is supposed to allow owners to buy another equivalent property.

Lindsay said that’s not what happened.

“For whatever reason, this government treats it like it’s an adversarial process to pay (homeowners) as little as possible, which makes no sense if you care about good governance and your citizens.”

There will be two gatherings at the site this Saturday – one to celebrate the end of the mall, the other by homeowners to highlight their expropriation.

The first phase of construction begins later this year, and should be complete by 2030.

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