October 16, 2015 6:46 pm
Updated: October 16, 2015 9:13 pm

Developer asks for city cash to preserve Edmonton heritage building

WATCH ABOVE: How much money should be spent restoring an old, landmark building for a private development? That is the question surrounding a very recognizable Edmonton structure. Vinesh Pratap reports.

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EDMONTON – For more than 100 years, the brewery castle has stood, but now its future is in question.

Most Edmontonians know it as the old Molson brewery site on 121 Street, just north of 104 Avenue. Right beside it, a new retail development is going up. But the developer, First Capital Realty, has found major issues with the main brick building, which dates to 1913.

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“What we’ve learned structurally is that it’s been extremely compromised over time by virtue of the industrial use that it was put through,” said Ralph Huizinga with First Capital Realty on the phone from Calgary.

“Structurally, it’s challenged to remain vertical,” he said.

The costs for restoration are estimated at over $12 million dollars. The city is being asked to contribute just over $4 million to help with the work.

“It’s a lot of money,” said the area’s councillor Scott McKeen, who added, “there’s a bit of a crisis of conscience.”

The issue is the amount of public dollars being asked for and if it should be allocated to one private development.

“The question for me then becomes one of the value of the building itself,” McKeen told Global News.  “And that is, man, that’s an iconic building.”

The Molson building west of downtown Edmonton.

Vinesh Pratap, Global News

The developer knows people will have questions about the significant ask, but said, from a business point of view, the city will make a return on the investment.

Right now, the old brick structures contribute about $30,000 in property taxes. Huizinga suggests a restored building could contribute as much as $300,000 a year to city coffers.

“There is an argument, and I think it is a legitimate one, that the city will get it’s investment back, if you will, over the next 13 to 15 years and beyond that will continue to reap the benefits,” said Huizinga.

“It’s not a slam dunk,” said McKeen.

McKeen indicated he will reluctantly vote in favour of the funding. But, he pointed out he’s only one vote and expects a lot of debate at council.

“It’s a lot of money and I know there will be some people who will be really annoyed with us for doing it,” he said.

Any public funding will come with the stipulation the building get historic designation status.  It’s something the developer indicates the company is applying for.

Council will debate the issue next Tuesday.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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