City of Edmonton takes rare step to save historic Iron Works building

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WATCH ABOVE: The city is taking a rare step to preserve a part of Edmonton's history from the wrecking ball. Vinesh Pratap takes a look at what's driving the city to save a piece of the past.

It’s been part of the Boyle Street community for more than 100 years and now, the City of Edmonton is taking steps to try and prevent the Edmonton Iron Works building from being torn down.

The building dates back to 1909 and is credited with producing parts for some of Edmonton’s major structures.

“It’s one of our last remaining examples of industrial architecture,” Peter Ohm, chief planner with the City of Edmonton, said.

READ MORE: 75-year-old Edmonton grocery store designated a historic resource

But last month, the owners of the building applied for a permit to have it torn down. In hopes of avoiding the wrecking ball, city council has gone against the owner’s wishes and applied to have the site designated a historic property.

The decision to seek historic designation comes after negotiations with the owner to expropriate the property broke down.

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Ohm said it’s an unusual step for council to take, but it showcases the city’s desire to keep the building as part of its overall vision for the neighbourhood.

“It is, in my experience, rather rare. And really, the application of the notice is part of a response to the threat of the demolition and that the demolition then would jeopardize the vision,” he said.

“I think it demonstrates the degree to which they’re concerned about retaining that building and making sure that it’s part of the vision.”

The Iron Works building sits on the southern edge of what’s known as Church Street in the Boyle Street neighbourhood. The city sees the building as a way to bridge Boyle Street with the nearby Quarters development. Eventually, the city hopes to redevelop the area around the old building with a mix of commercial and residential spaces.

“It’s incorporated as part of the site redevelopment, so it’s integral that it be maintained,” Ohm said.

READ MORE: The Quarters is groomed for grand development plans

Local historian Shirley Lowe is extremely pleased with the possibility the building will stick around. She said Edmonton should be proud of its roots.

“I am overjoyed and very pleasantly surprised because we’ve lost so much of who we were,” Lowe said. “That area had a lot of industries that built the city at a really critical time and one by one they’ve been knocked down and we just don’t have that story any more.

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“Heritage is a derivative of the word inheritance and this is something that we pass from one generation to the other.”

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Now that the city has sought to designate the site a historical property, there is a four-month period where the building is protected.

The building is currently sitting empty.

A lawyer representing the interests of the Iron Works building declined to comment on this story.