A council committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to incorporate the original Centre Street Bridge lions into the city’s West LRT public art plan.
While the weathered, cracked sculptures probably won’t be restored to their former condition, there’s now a strong likelihood they’ll be visible in some form on Calgary’s commuting corridor, whether reinterpreted as art pieces or displayed as culturally and historically significant public ruins.
The concrete cats were placed on the newly opened Centre Street Bridge in 1917, where they watched over the Bow River and Chinatown until being replaced by replicas in 1999. Of the original four, one lion was restored and sits at the foot of city hall, while the other three have spent more than a decade in a city storage yard.
Funding to restore and move the sculptures (an estimated price tag of $625,000) has been sought previously but never secured. This cooperative effort by the city, the Public Art Board, Heritage Authority and Calgary Heritage Initiative Society will leverage funds marked for West LRT public art to get the sculptures back in public view.
Next, the plan will go through extensive public consultation to help determine exactly where the lions should go, and in what form.