EDMONTON — The city has given the old Molson brewery site in Oliver municipal historic designation and will commit approximately $4 million towards preserving the building.
“Council has agreed that the brewery is worth saving,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “Whenever we make that commitment to civically designate something as historically significant, it does come with a requirement to invest some funds.”
The total project could cost $12 million. The city will contribute about $4 million.
“Those are partner funds with the developers and landowners, who will also make an investment,” said Iveson.
The weight on the owner’s shoulders will not be insignificant in the slightest.
“The owner is playing a huge role in this,” said David Johnston, who is part of Edmonton’s Heritage Planning Committee.
The old brewery building, on 121 Street, just north of 104 Avenue, dates back to 1913.
A new retail development is going up right beside it. The developer, First Capital Realty, found major issues with the main brick building and asked the city for help to preserve the heritage site. Those developing the property saw value in the brewery district and the main structure.
“This building has been there for over 100 years and has a presence in this location,” said Johnston. “It’s critical to maintain those stories, but also to keep the physical tangible structures in place.”
Johnston explained about $8 million of the project is eligible for heritage rehabilitation support, but the owner will have take on millions.
“Our program does what we can to support people, but ultimately, in the framework we have, it’s up to the owners to come forward. We do everything we can to encourage people and provide incentives to help people make that decision because it is a difficult one. It’s not an easy undertaking…It’s expensive. We need those champions to step forward.”
Johnston recalled the restoration of the Hotel MacDonald back in 1984 cost $1.5 million. He said the brewery project will be incredibly extensive, especially because decades of industrial use compromised the building’s structural integrity.
“This project is far and beyond anything we’ve experienced before.”
Still, both Johnston and city council decided it was worth saving.
“I’m sure it’s one of those things where we’ll look back and say, ‘this was the right thing to do.’ Just like we did with the Hotel MacDonald and other significant properties that we’ve stepped up with over time,” said the mayor.
“There is value there in terms of architectural heritage.”