Watch above: It’s one of the oldest buildings in one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, but it’s set to be demolished. The Etzio is one of the few remaining structures along Whyte Avenue from the 19th century. And as Eric Szeto reports, Edmontonians are hoping more can be done to preserve more of the city’s history.
EDMONTON – Should more be done to preserve the history of the city and in particular, Old Strathcona? That’s the question many are asking as a 116-year-old building in the area prepares for demolition.
“The reason the area is popular in the first place is because it’s a historic neighbourhood. And I think it’s important that we preserve that history,” said Mark Wilson, owner of Vivid Print, a stationery and framing shop located on Whyte Avenue at 103 Street.
Wilson’s business is located two doors down from Etzio, which operates out of a building that is more than a century old. But after 116 years on Whyte Avenue, the structure is coming down to make way for a new three-storey development.
“The city has found it acceptable to simply demolish old buildings and put up new buildings that look old,” said Wilson. “That’s a Disney Land-view of history. The plaques on the sidewalks here say historic area. Well, it’s not historic if all the buildings are 10 years old.”
It’s a move that disappoints Wilson and others on the avenue who believe more should be done to keep the character of Old Strathcona intact. The Etzio building is only one of a handful along Whyte Avenue that date back to the 19th century.
“In a city with such very little heritage infrastructure left, money should be put towards this, to preserving our history, rather than levelling it. It’s disappointing,” said Wilson.
“I think in this district it’s important because it keeps the flavour of Edmonton, and Edmonton is known for Whyte Ave.,” said a woman who was out shopping in Old Strathcona Saturday afternoon.
“Some of the old culture should still be there, I think,” added a man who was walking along the avenue. “It gives Edmonton a little sense of identity. Without it, it just becomes another strip mall or it could be any other city in the world.”
The city says it does everything it can, including offering incentives to owners, to support the preservation of historical buildings. But Mayor Don Iveson says it comes down to more than just compensation.
“Our tools are a bit limited if land owners are not willing. The province has some more tools than we do, frankly, to step in on these things and so it requires everybody working together, including the landowners, to save older buildings.”
Still, Wilson — looking fondly on the old structure — believes a little piece of history is lost with every building that’s torn down.
“Most of these buildings are coming down one by one and pretty soon we’ll have to take the old out of Old Strathcona,” Wilson said.
While a timeline for demolition has yet to be set, after the Etzio building is torn down, the Old Strathcona Hotel and the Ross building will be the only two buildings left from the 1800s.
*Global News tried contacting the owner of Etzio, but he was out of town.
With files from Eric Szeto, Global News.
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