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The Somerville Duplex: A Tale of Restoration, Vision and Community Cooperation

Nov 15, 2023 8:00:00 AM The MacMillan Estate Planning Team Estate Planning, Estate Management

In the heart of a charming Calgary neighborhood, the Somerville Duplex has stood as a silent witness to over a century of history. This building, constructed in the Tudor Revival style in 1911 during the Canadian Pacific Railway expansion in Calgary, has a rich past as the home of prominent figures such as entrepreneur Wm. Somerville and Abraham Belzberg. However, in more recent years, the building had fallen into disrepair, becoming a shadow of its former self. That was until Sheri MacMillan, the CEO of Macmillan Estate Planning and a visionary owner, stepped in to breathe new life into the historical gem.

The Somerville Duplex, a rare example of the duplex form of its era, was on the brink of demolition in 2007. With a basement furnace that seemed to have an 'octopus' design, leaking roof, broken windows, rotting structure and crumbling masonry, it was clear that the building had seen better days. With a lack of ownership to maintain it, the duplex was an ideal candidate for demolition by developers, especially given its coveted location in downtown Calgary.

This dilapidated property caught Sheri MacMillan's discerning eye. Sheri envisioned turning the Somerville Duplex into her corporate headquarters while contributing to the preservation of the neighborhood's historical character. The property was later designated as a municipal heritage resource, with specific limits on commercial use and operating hours established for the property.

Sheri then went a step further, involving the community in the project. She hosted events where neighbors could visit the Somerville Duplex before and after the proposed renovation, ensuring that their concerns and considerations were addressed.

The success of this restoration project can be attributed to the remarkable collaboration among all stakeholders. For example, architectural design firm Simpson Roberts, played a crucial role in supervising site restoration and architectural design, ensuring that the heritage integrity of the Somerville Duplex was preserved. The result of this oversight was a Municipal Heritage Site plaque awarded to the property.

The dedication to communicating challenges presented by stakeholders was the key to realizing this project. Sheri, in collaboration with lead architect Lorne Simpson, upheld best practices in heritage conservation and maintained the quality of workmanship. The Somerville Duplex has now become one of the signature establishments within the Cliff-Bungalow community, contributing to its unique character.

For Sheri, the investment in restoring the building and respecting its heritage characteristics was a matter of pride and vision. She patiently engaged with all stakeholders, turning the project into a shining example of creativity, collaboration and consensus. In 2016, the project received the prestigious Lions Award from the Calgary Heritage Authority for Heritage Conservation.

The Somerville Duplex is a testament to what can be achieved when vision, determination and community cooperation come together to preserve and celebrate the history and charm of a neighborhood. It's a story of transformation, from a neglected relic to a vibrant part of Calgary's heritage.

With that, let’s wish Sheri MacMillan and the entire MacMillan Estate Planning team a happy anniversary on spending the last 10 years in this one-of-a-kind, historic building.

At MacMillan Estate Planning, our team of professional trust and estate practitioners, chartered accountants, financial planners, and legal professionals look forward to assisting you with the design of your estate plan and will ensure you build, protect, and enjoy your wealth. The information provided is general and may not be suited to your objectives or sufficient to ensure the protection of you and your family. You should not act on this information without providing MacMillan Estate Planning with the opportunity to ensure that it is suitable for your unique situation.

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