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Annex Building being demolished, turned into Alberta legislature green space

Click to play video: 'Edmonton’s Annex Building being demolished before being turned into green space' Edmonton’s Annex Building being demolished before being turned into green space
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Deemed too costly to maintain, the Annex Building on the Alberta legislature grounds is being torn down. In turn, the site will be made into a green space.

Interior demolition and hazardous materials removal began in March and on Tuesday, structural demolition started. The cleanup and sorting process could take five to six weeks.

The Annex Building is 70 years old and was built in 1951.

“The condition deteriorated because it was not well kept,” Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda said.

Alberta Infrastructure said many of the Annex’s systems had aged to the point where it was “no longer economically viable” for the government to continue to occupy and maintain.

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Before the decision was made to tear the building down, the province estimated the Annex Building required approximately $29 million in repairs and maintenance.

“The money needed to bring the Annex up to a modern and usable standards will be better spent on schools, hospitals, and other public buildings across Alberta,” Panda said.

“Our government has a responsibility to ensure we are getting the best value for taxpayers’ money when we build and maintain our government facilities.”

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There were “a couple hundred” people working in the Annex, Panda said, and they have been relocated to other government buildings.

Once demolition is done, the site will be landscaped to provide additional green space at the legislature grounds.

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David Ridley is the executive director of the Edmonton Heritage Council.

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He said the Annex was built by Alberta Government Telephones, the provincial telephone utility.

It filled to capacity and then another six floors had to be added. In total, the building was 14 storeys to house staff.

He said this was one of the world’s first hermetically-sealed “curtain-wall” buildings, a structure that has an exterior that’s attached but not structural to the design. The futuristic look of the building, with its turquoise office tower, charmed many architects around North America.

“It was a new type of building that would not have been found elsewhere in Canada, really. Only in places like New York.”

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Darrel Babuk is an Edmonton-based architect.

Babuk said he would have liked to see the Alberta government focus on giving the space new life.

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“I’m very scared we are seeing buildings as disposable,” he said. “For the amount of money, resources and energy it takes to build something… we’re just throwing it all away.”

Babuk acknowledges that maintaining the Annex building would have come at a cost, but said losing spots like this one erases Edmonton’s past.

“We should be proud of what we have in our own backyard. Don’t keep tearing it down,” he said.

— With files from Morgan Black, Global News

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