Rehabilitation, not restoration

Tyler Clarke
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Main Street program aims to move the downtown forward with a keen eye on its past

While drawing inspiration from its rich architectural history, the stewards of Prince Albert’s downtown have been striving to move it toward a unique future.

Such is the case with the city’s façade improvements under the provincial Main Street program, which saw 10 projects done under its recently capped pilot project run.

Now a permanent project, the Main Street program aims to help improve the state of the city’s downtown core while maintaining its unique history.

After all, its historic elements are what make the city’s downtown core unique to other business and shopping centres in the city.

This week, downtown stewards from throughout the province gathered in Prince Albert for their annual “Main Street Knowledge Exchange” conference.

On Friday, the event’s emcee -- National Trust for Canada director of regeneration projects Jim Mountain -- clarified that for most projects, the focus should be on rehabilitation and not restoration.

Restoration is about bringing things back to their original form, where rehabilitation offers a broader approach more receptive to practical alterations.

Elements of a building’s architectural history are often incorporated or played upon in accomplishing this goal, he explained.

Such was the case with the renewal of the city’s Prince Albert Downtown Improvement District Association office, at 1105 Central Ave.

Built in 1912, AODBT Architecture & Interior Design planned the building’s recent renewal under the Main Street program.

The building had undergone some changes over the years -- most notably a retooling of its entranceway in the 1950s, at which time its original structure was replaced by mid-century aluminum glazing.

In restoring the building, they incorporated the building’s full history, architect Jason Hurd explained, noting that they also offered some modern twists.

The building’s upper area now resembles its earliest history while the 50s-era entranceway and display windows remained, with the project showcasing an eclectic blend of the building’s history.

The same can be said for various other renewal projects in the city’s downtown core, including the Abrametz & Eggum law firm at 1000 First Ave. W. and the RNF Ventures building at 811 Central Avenue.

In all these cases, the Prince Albert Historical Society was an important partner, in that they provided historic photographs to inspire architects, Hurd explained.

In the end, each of these projects incorporated the old while accepting modern components in moving the city’s downtown core forward with a keen eye on its past.

“Let each place be itself,” Mountain said. “It’s an evolving history of downtown … Mostly you’re trying to use that heritage to inspire a contemporary use and development.”

@TylerClarkePA •


Organizations: Prince Albert, Trust for Canada, Prince Albert Downtown Improvement District Association RNF Ventures Prince Albert Historical Society

Geographic location: 811 Central Avenue

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