Residents in Ramsay are losing a neighbour — but this move comes with a breath of fresh air and far fewer feathers.
After decades of operating in Calgary's inner-city, a stone's throw from residential homes, Lilydale is ready to lock up and move to a new facility in Dufferin North Industrial Park.
"We've always been known as the community that has this stinky chicken factory," said Ramsay Community Association director Erin Joslin. "It's always been that dynamic. So now it'll be really interesting to kind of see how that changes."
The City of Calgary will get the keys to the old factory by Jan. 15, said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who represents Ward 9.
The Calgary Police Service will use the empty building temporarily for training exercises.
Eventually, the city will demolish the old abattoir to make way for the Green Line LRT. Carra guesses that won't be for another year or so.
End of an era
Residents have already noticed the parking lot is sometimes empty. On a Facebook group page, comments fly back and forth. Could it finally be true? Some will believe it when they see it.
"To be able to share there is, indeed, a full plant that they can move to," Joslin said. "This isn't just rumours anymore, this is truly happening."
While residents will be happy to say goodbye and good riddance to the chicken trucks, Joslin said it also marks the end of an era.
"It's always been a weird fit, but, historically, it's always been there as well," she said. "It's a big change. It's showing the community is evolving and things are happening around here."
Carra said Lilydale was the last holdout from Ramsay's historic use.
"While everything else disappeared and went other places, Lilydale got bigger and bigger," Carra said. "I think it's important to recognize the stockyard sort of history of this land.… Outside of that, I don't think that the largest abattoir in the province of Alberta belongs right next to one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the city."
Next? Carra said the community and city need to talk about what the Ramsay node will look like as the city plans for Green Line transit-oriented development.
Over the years, the chicken-killing plant made headlines, usually for the wrong reasons. Residents nearby contended with foul smells, blood, poultry prison breaks, hens running around with their heads cut off — and an ammonia leak.
Recently, under the management of Sofina Foods, both the area councillor and residents saw improvements.
Then, with Green Line negotiations, Carra said the city found a cost-effective way to have Lilydale fly the coop. In 2017, council found a plot of city-owned land and pitched a move to Sofina Foods.
"It's a win-win-win," Carra said.
The deal took years to materialize — and the COVID-19 pandemic didn't help with move-out and construction timelines.
"We expect to complete the transition early in the new year," read a statement from Sofina Foods. "We are excited about the move to our new facility and look forward to transitioning our current employees over to the new site."
In Dufferin North Industrial Park the roads are designed for heavy truck traffic. Instead of single-detached homes, the new Sofina Foods facility has industrial neighbours such as Home Depot's distribution centre.
The state-of-the-art building is a massive upgrade, dwarfing the Lilydale building in Ramsay.