Lethbridge city council has approved a redevelopment project on the downtown Bentley building against the advice of the Historic Places Advisory Committee.
“It’s a difficult decision,” Mayor Chris Spearman said.
“But we have to recognize that our downtown needs development, and we have a Heart of our City committee that recommends revitalization of the downtown and if we keep turning down investments then that won’t happen.”
The proposal to destroy and rebuild part of the structure, which was named a municipal historic resource six months ago, had previously been rejected by the Historic Places Advisory Committee. Members instead suggested the one-storey brick parapet needed to stay in place to retain the building’s original design.
After coming up with a compromise, the ownership group behind the historic Bentley Block brought an appeal to the historic committee’s rejection before city council on Monday.
“In this case, investors had responded in some ways to previous recommendations,” Spearman said. “Their original intention was to demolish the one-storey building and build a second building, but instead they’ve retained the one-storey building and added additional development of two more levels.”
In the new design, a five-foot-tall brick wall will be demolished and two more storeys featuring balconies will be added to the original structure.
Council members voted 8-1 in favour of the project on Monday, with Spearman adding that the new design isn’t believed to compromise the historic value or integrity of the building.
“Council has to make a judgement call when it’s an appeal. We have to respect the work of the people on the historical advisory committee but at the same time, we have to look at what’s the impact if we have people coming forward with innovative ideas to restore historic buildings,” said Spearman.
“We want to make sure we look at these things with an open mind,” the mayor added.
The project now has to undergo construction designs and permit retrieval before work on Bentley Block can officially begin.
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