Edmonton city council has a three-acre multi-million dollar dilemma on its hands, after hearing pleas Monday from the heritage community to save Hangar 11 on the Blatchford development. The Second World War-era wood-framed building is of significant historic value, and sits on a parcel of land that is destined for NAIT.
However, while NAIT wants the land, it doesn’t want the building, so the city is looking at a land swap. The problem is, Blatchford’s development manager has calculated for city councillors the lost revenue opportunity, if the city forgoes developing an additional three acres.
“It could be as much as $10 million that we would miss out on in revenue,” Tom Lumsden told council’s executive committee. Lumsden based that on those three acres being in close proximity to LRT and NAIT, and the anticipation what is built there would be done with high density.
“That’s significant,” Mayor Don Iveson said after a thoughtful pause when his question was answered.
What councillors wound up doing is buying more time, asking for a report on the condition of the building and what kind of uses could be housed in it, if they go in that direction.
“I think we’re fairly confident it’s not that bad,” heritage consultant Don Luxton told reporters after flying in on his own dime from Vancouver because he thinks the building is that important.
“I don’t think we’d be here advocating for something that is going to be the money pit of all time.”
Luxton told councillors that the city report they were basing their decisions on isn’t as dire as the administration paints it out to be.
“It says $20 million, right down to new light switches… but it may be $100,000 to patch the roof and it might last five years and it might be sufficient time.”
The 7,400-square-metre building is what’s left of Second World War hangars on the former City Centre Airport site. It’s listed on the city’s historic resources inventory. Hangar 14 from the same era is the home of the Aviation Museum on Kingsway, however it sits outside the Blatchford footprint.
Luxton said industrial buildings of this size have been repurposed all over the world.
“We see it in Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco. We see it the warehouses in Gastown in Vancouver. We see it in many different places where large scale industrial buildings are infinitely flexible in the uses that you can bring into them.”
Councillor Scott McKeen is sponsoring the item, and hopes they can get some answers in the new year.
“I just think we heard a remarkable amount of expertise and thoughtfulness and I hope we give Hangar 11 a stay, and I expect we’ll find something amazing to do with that building. But it isn’t going to be in the next three or four years. It’s going to take time.”
The administration told the committee they could buy some time seeing as the city’s heritage fund normally gets $1 million in its budget for these types of projects, however, the fund will be tapped out until 2021-2022 because of prior commitments.