In a fight to save one of Raymond’s historical buildings, private investors have stepped forward, trying to buy the beloved Raymond Care Centre.
But the current owners, Alberta Health Services (AHS), say a purchase isn’t possible, and plan to move forward with demolition.
“There’s just no need to tear it down,” said Brian Vandenberg, one of the owners of Hegnberg Ltd. which restores historical buildings.
“I think if someone like us comes forward it makes perfectly good sense to save it.”
Vandenberg says him and his partner want to turn the building into an addiction centre called Freedom Roads Raymond Knight Centre for Addiction.
“We want to turn it into a rehabilitation facility, predominately for use for unfortunate folks suffering from an opioid addiction,” he said.
The Raymond Care Centre was built in 1919 and was first used as an agricultural school, but due to declining enrollment it was closed in 1931.
Eight years later, in 1939, it was converted into a mental health facility until it closed in 2008. It’s sat vacant ever since.
The province agreed to demolish the building in October 2016.
In a statement to Global News, AHS said that “based on multiple environmental and building assessments, the Raymond Care Centre buildings have significant environmental and structural issues.”
However, a building condition assessment ordered by AHS in 2015 concluded “the result of this condition audit has determined that all three buildings have enough potential to be conserved and interpreted as the original Raymond Agricultural School.”
It also found that the buildings “appear to be in reasonable condition for their vintage with no significant signs of structural instability.”
A Phase One environmental site assessment in 2016 also found no conclusive evidence of hazardous materials other than mould, and recommended further testing.
Still, AHS points to the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, saying the property can’t be sold as is.
A lawyer Global News spoke with said there’s nothing in the act that prevents the selling of buildings while they’re contaminated, or on contaminated soil.
“There can be some hesitancy to transfer property that is known to be contaminated, where there may be some concern that the original owner might be responsible — but generally this is dealt with through a purchase and sale agreement,” said Debbie Bishop, partner at Prowse Chowne LLP.
Instead of selling, the province says tearing it down is the best option, claiming in a statement the town is on board.
But the mayor of Raymond confirmed to Global News that when the town met with the province, private investors had not stepped forward, and now they want it saved.
“We wish to purchase it and it will cost the province of Alberta absolutely nothing,” Vandenberg said. “We will use our own investment money and we’ll save it and turn it into a positive aspect for the town.”
AHS says a second environmental assessment has been completed, which will help the contractor determine the exact nature and extent of any contamination.
The results are expected to be completed in the next couple of weeks.