My friend Alex and I went to the University of Alberta tonight to snap some pictures of a street we both used to call home. The UofA has recently demolished or moved a number of houses in the North Garneau area, along 87th avenue and in-between 110th and 111 street. Only three houses still remain on the block, including the one Alex and I both used to live in. We call it the “Kap house,” as it has been the residence of the Kappa Alpha Literary Society and its members for almost twenty years. Others likely call it “the one with the key on the front,” or “that place with the dorks in suits playing chess and guitar,” but the point is that the house still remains. Many others do not. Their places and spaces will be filled with two Graduate Student residences by 2010.
As I walked around 87th avenue with Alex tonight, it dawned on me that, despite living in the Kap house for four years, and either going to school or working at the UofA for eleven more, I only ever set foot in one other house on that block. I never ever thought I’d feel regret over such a thing, but I do. The Kap house is one of the most important places in my life. It is the house where I spent time with many of my closest friends, including my best man, two groomsmen, two bridesmaids and my soon-to-be wife. It’s a special place for me and my friends, and after tonight I can’t help but wish I knew more about the special memories created by other students in those houses-of-no-more. What did the insides of the houses look like? What did they feel like? What crazy things happened inside them? Who fell in love? Who fell out of love? Who got drunk and passed out on the bedroom floor? Who read that book that changed their life? All these questions I now have, along with the realization that they’ll likely never be answered. So yes, regret is exactly what I feel.
I understand the University’s need for more housing space, but I still think it’s unfortunate that this row of houses had to be sacrificed. They were older houses, but they were also unique buildings, full of character and full of memories. Along with the trees that hang over 87th avenue, they provided a lovely, picturesque entranceway to the main UofA campus. In fact, it was one of the few remaining areas on campus where you could look and say, “yes, that’s exactly what a university campus is supposed to look like.” How does one replace such things?
In fairness, the mock-ups (see “street scene” 1-7) for the new buildings actually do look nice. They appear to be built-to-scale, and reflect the look and charm of the houses they are replacing. I don’t care much for the look and design of the buildings the University has recently constructed, but I am optimistic that the finished products along 87th avenue will indeed look as good as their mock-ups. Once that’s done, it shouldn’t take long for new, fantastic memories to be created within those residence walls.