Architect of the renovation: Clem Lau
The brick building, previously still the Mah's Association building, was constructed in 1978.
In 1996, the building was renovated.
MAH SOCIETY BUILDING
The two-story home was built by the Mah Association.
WITH CLEM LAU (ARCHITECT OF THE 1996 BUILDING RENOVATION)
+ Tell me about yourself and your background.
How did you become involved in Calgary Chinatown?
I came to Calgary in 1978, after working a year in Vancouver following my graduation from UBC. The community was small and we tried our best to get involved and to help– especially with the seniors.
+ What was Calgary Chinatown like in the 1980s / 1990s ?
Chinatown was about the same size as what we have right now, but with some old buildings replaced with new. When I arrived, all the buildings in Chinatown were no more than 2 stories high.
+ When was this new building constructed?
It was originally the “Mah’s Association Building” — built by and for the Mah’s association in the late 1970s. It was sold to a developer in the early 1990’s. The Mah’s Building/Centre was a low income housing project. When it was renovated and transitioned to the Broadview Centre, it was brought up to market value and the units were sold as condos.
+ As far as I understand from our conversations, you renovated this existing building. Who commissioned you to renovate the new building and what design decisions did you make?
This developer hired me to modernize the building and to make it more efficient and marketable. The developer was Mr. Or. We followed the Chinatown Redevelopment Guideline, with input from the City of Calgary Planning Department. The aim was to characterize the look of the building to unify the appearance of Chinatown.
+ How did you think that the building would express “Chinese character” or fit into Chinatown?
To start, the Chinatown Redevelopment Guideline asks for red brick to be used on the exterior of buildings. We added some precast concrete decorative trims to highlight the building a bit. The resulting building character falls within the southern Chinese style of buildings.
Architectural drawings, courtesy of Clem Lau
WITH PETER CHU (Former Property Manager at the Broadview Centre)
+ What do you know about the history of the building?
The current building used to belong to the Mah’s Association (many of them, Toishanese-speaking, used to lived there).
They sold the building in 1997 to a development company, who did the big renovation.
+ Are there any notable changes or transformations to the building?
There used to be a balcony on the west side, but during the renovations, they blocked off the balconies to make the units bigger.
The recreation room is on the 2nd floor — all the balcony spaces were consolidated and re-allocated towards a gym.
The surface-level parking spaces are actually condominium parking spaces; many of which were sold by the senior citizens who lived upstairs and didn’t have a car or need the parking spot.
On the ground floor, there are commercial units. After that, there are four stories (floors 2-5), and 12 units per floor.
Rolend Mah (Mah Association)
The old bungalow was built around 1919 by the Mah Association members, who donated the money to fund the project. The Mah Association owned the land.
With the new building, the interest on the mortgage went up a lot, and we couldn’t keep up with payments, so we sold the building in the 1980s.
After, we were in the Canton Block on Centre street, where we rented the upstairs unit on top of the clinic.
We bought the basement unit and moved into the Fukienese Association building around 2011.
MAH ASSOCIATION, PRE-DEMOLITION
These photographs of the Mah Association building are dated between 1975 – 1978, before the building was demolished to make way for the updated Mah Society building (which was later sold and renamed Broadview Centre.) Photographs courtesy of John and Doug Coats.
CURRENT DAY BUILDING PHOTOGRAPHS
Photographs taken in 2020.