Published on September 16, 2013
Local lawyer Peter Abrametz is seen with office staff members Lisette Camalari and Natalia Antoniuk and contractor Mykhaylo Zarichnyy, from left.
Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Published on September 16, 2013
The building now known as Peter Abrametz’s law office is seen as the Imperial Bank of Canada in 1905 -- 10 years after it was built.
Built in 1895, the two-storey brick building at 1000 First Ave. W. wasn’t in the best of shape about a year ago.
Then, one of Prince Albert’s longest-standing buildings caught the eye of local lawyer Peter Abrametz, who saw potential despite its deterioration.
“The building had been abused and has been neglected over the years, and I just saw a potential in terms of the location, in terms of the building itself,” he said.
Built two decades before the Sacred Heart Cathedral saw its first mass take place, Abrametz’s new building is solid.
Its walls are made up of foot-thick bricks, and three-foot thick stones make up its basement walls.
Initially built to house the Imperial Bank, later called the Royal Bank, the structure housed various things over the years, including a furniture store, before sitting vacant in the few years leading up to Abrametz’s purchase of it.
Summarizing his inspiration to purchase the building, he said “They don’t make them like they used to, really.”
The key trouble spot proved to be the building’s cornice -- a decorative molding that crowns the top edges of the building’s roof.
Made out of steel, Abrametz explained that the “practical reason it was there when the building was built is it’s to protect the bricks from rain.”
The bricks, he added, were locally produced and baked at a low temperature, making them softer than the average brick.
“Therefore they have to be protected from the elements, and that’s why there’s a cornice,” he said.
Over the years, the cornice leaked, rotting out the 118-year-old wood underneath the building’s frame, putting it at danger of falling off.
“It had to be entirely rebuilt and a new steel frame put in to support it and anchor it into the brick wall,” Abrametz said, noting that a much less expensive solution would have been to rebuild the structure without its cornice.
At a crossroads, he looked to the city’s Main Street Prince Albert program, which offers funding up to 50 per cent for projects that maintain historic features on the city’s downtown buildings.
“Without them it may not have happened, because the most cost-effective thing would have been to probably remove it,” Abrametz said.
This is exactly the kind of project the program was meant for, Main Street Prince Albert co-ordinator Bob Gill said, noting that the Abrametz law office project will be the first project under the program to see completion.
“Downtown is the only part in any city where you really see the history of buildings and their unique architecture,” Gill said.
The building had been abused and has been neglected over the years, and I just saw a potential in terms of the location, in terms of the building itself. Peter Abrametz
“Any of the new areas of the city -- it’s all modern technology … so if you really want to see the heart of the city you go to its downtown core, because of the great architecture that was put into the buildings back in the day.”
As well as rebuilding the cornice and renovating the existing building, an addition to the building’s east side was constructed -- another undertaking with history in mind.
“In terms of everything -- the lines, the size, the contours -- we tried to keep it in sync with the old,” Abrametz said.
While built to resemble the surrounding infrastructure, the brick-covered addition is without a cornice, since it would have been cost-prohibitive to custom build one.
With the southeastern corner of 10th Street’s intersection with First Avenue West now more visually appealing thanks to the Abrametz law office renovation and addition, the lawyer notes that this isn’t the only area of improvement in downtown Prince Albert.
Pointing to a large-scale renovation project at the southwestern corner of Central Avenue’s intersection with River Road, things appear to be shaping up in downtown Prince Albert.
“I see a lot of positive things happening, and I can only see it getting better,” Abrametz said. “There are some big projects on the horizon, as well -- so, that’s exciting.”
So far, about eight property owners have applied for funding through Main Street Prince Albert, Gill said, noting that the three-year program worth $150,000 in provincial funding expires this time next year.
Proposals need to come through Main Street Prince Albert and be signed and approved by March, with construction completed by September, he said, adding that there’s plenty of funding still up for grabs.
Overall, things appear to be shaping up in the city’s downtown core, Gill said, noting that since the Main Street Prince Albert program started up two years ago downtown vacancies have dropped from 14 to about four.
During this same time frame, more than $5 million in property sales have taken place he said.
“That’s a significant number showing people interested in investing in the downtown area.”