New Life for The Simmons Building

The Simmons Building has been a mattress factory, symbol of city prosperity and beacon in the ever-changing landscape of East Village. Soon, it'll be one of the great gathering places in the city.

CMLC, the master developer of East Village, has begun asking potential lessees of the handsome hundred-year-old building for Expressions of Interest - ideas of how The Simmons Building could become a great public space for Calgarians. "The Simmons Building could be many things," says CMLC's Susan Veres, senior manager of marketing and communications. "We've often looked around this space wondering if it should one day be a pub, a great restaurant, or something we haven't even thought of. The important thing is that the building become a thriving and invigorating destination for everyone to enjoy.

Born The Simmons Factory Warehouse, the two-story was built on the Bow River in East Village by the Montreal based Alaska Bedding Company (ABC) in the 1912 boom. It's a rare example of pre-World War I manufacturing and industrial architecture, a modern marvel for its time. Its post and beam construction, concrete foundation, brick cladding, steam heating, electric elevator, sprinkler system, full basement with board floor and adjoining boiler house didn't come cheap: records show the structure cost $20,000 to build.

ABC amalgamated with other companies to create Simmons, a name well known to Canadians. (Who can ever forget the famous Beauty Rest Bowling Ball ads? You? OK, watch this. Beauty Rest mattresses, pillows, regular mattresses and chesterfield beds - which the company practically invented - were also assembled here. The Simmons Building was also used for the assembly and warehousing of specialty sleep equipment, like adjustable hospital beds and nursery racks. During World War II, the building was used exclusively to provide and store bedding for the military.

The Simmons' riverside location - which makes it so attractive today - was its undoing as a storage facility. In 1966, flooding in the basement sent Simmons to higher ground. Indeed, the floodplain around the Simmons and in much of East Village has been raised up to five feet in the past three years. When CMLC first moved there in 2007, staffers walked up some 8 steps to the doorway. Today, the doorway is flush with the newly raised street.

CMLC takes seriously its role as owner of one of the city's finest examples of industrial architecture, and in 2008, the developer won the important Calgary Heritage Lions Award in recognition of its thoughtful rejuventation of The Simmons.

Know an organization that might have a great idea for the next chapter of life for The Simmons Building? Send them to www.calgarymlc.ca/simmons to find out more.