A new kind of electricity is adding some spark to the former home of Knoxville Tavern.
Past patrons and area residents were buzzing with questions when fencing went up around the iconic 9th Avenue club in March. When the building was demolished a few weeks later with no indication of what was coming, the conversation began to crackle.
Turns out, the former tavern site is the location of the new Enmax power station. The utility company first disclosed the planned project in October 2019, but the project launch was scuttled due to “regulatory approvals and the schedule proposed by the successful contractor.”
An update was issued in March 2021, with two more following in May and July that year. Early in 2022, a project update indicated demolition would take place and site preparations would resume.
Replacing the tavern with a power station
The energy supplier will build a modern power station to replace the aging building one block east at 738 – 9th Ave.
The existing power station is one of a diminishing number of early 20th century buildings lining 9th Avenue. Built in 1912, the iconic, square, four-storey building is faced with buff brick and bright orange tiling surrounding small, rectangular windows, typical of buildings of that era.
The squat, unassuming substation was originally built to power streetlights and the streetcar rail system in a then-young Calgary. This substation currently provides power to about 45 per cent of Calgary’s downtown.
In bright contrast, architectural renderings of the new power station show a low, wide, hyper-modern building with expansive glass and steel mezzanine facing 9th Avenue and along 7th Street SW.
Enmax says the new station will ensure the reliability of energy transmission and electricity to Calgary.
A little bit of construction pain
The project will take place in stages. Originally slated to commence in 2021, the project start date was moved to the second quarter of this year and the building was demolished in March.
Now construction and engineering firm, Graham, will begin construction of the new substation this month.
Enmax anticipates project completion by early summer 2025. The existing older substation will be fully decommissioned by that date as well.
This major build will bring a few temporary road and sidewalk closures along 9th Avenue, 7th Street and 8th Street, with alleyway restrictions and closures to accommodate the placement, relocation, and installation of transmission lines, duct banks and sewer covers.
The majority of these closures will occur at the start of the project.
Saying goodbye to the infamous tavern
Knoxville Taven — formerly known as the Roadhouse for 12 years — was billed Calgary’s “number one country club” by owners, though Ranchman’s might have had something to say about that.
An online poll in the Calgary Reddit sub about the demise of Knoxville delivered many personal stories about nights at the infamous tavern.
While not all of them were positive, there were some fond memories about the club where party-goers would often line up outside the bar for hours to get in on weekend nights.
One commenter, Cory, frequented Knoxville in its earlier iteration as The Roadhouse. On a fateful night in October 2011, Cory hit up the club with a roommate.
“I saw a group of women dancing and decided to bust into their dance circle and show off my moves. Well, it paid off because my now-wife, Leslie, just happened to be in that group of girls,” he says of the encounter.
“The rest is history. We have been together since then. We got married in Mexico in November 2019, got our dog in Feb 2020, and had our baby girl in January. “
In a second twist of fate, Cory has a full-circle relationship with the former club, as he is working on the current Enmax project.
The new power station will be a significant update to this stretch of 9th Avenue SW and will be an architectural complement to the University of Calgary’s downtown building on the opposite corner.
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