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Regeneration 150

As we approach the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, the National Trust continues building a strong case for investment in heritage places that matter. There are countless successful regeneration and reuse projects that prove heritage helps energize economies. Here is selection to inspire you. 

Maria Keary Cottages, New Westminster, British Columbia

Photo courtesy of Pattinson Architecture

Seeing the potential for profit in the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in New Westminster, enterprising pioneer Maria Keary commissioned the construction of these twin Queen Anne Revival-style cottages in 1887 to create affordable rental opportunities in the growing community. Today, they are the oldest surviving examples of purpose-made rental housing in the city. However, by 2004, the twin homes were in a bad state of repair following years of neglect. Since then, a project by a local non-profit has revitalized the cottages, giving them new purpose doing social good. With the help of a heritage revitalization agreement with the City of New Westminster and additional grants and funding, the Westcoast Genesis Society undertook a $6.5 million project that restored the cottages’ heritage character while converting them into a supportive-housing facility for men at risk of homelessness. The project, completed in 2010, saw the cottages raised from their foundations and connected by a rear addition that integrates with their traditional design. Today at the Maria Keary Cottages, Westcoast Genesis Society is able to provide transitional beds for up to 20 homeless men and up to 15 offenders on conditional release.

King Edward School, Calgary, Alberta

Photo courtesy of cSPACE

Calgary’s former King Edward School (1912), a massive sandstone landmark vacant for 12 years, will rise again as cSPACE King Edward, a creative hub and arts incubator. The school was purchased in 2012 by cSPACE, a new social enterprise addressing the need for affordable space for artists, not-for-profits and social entrepreneurs, with a focus on heritage adaptive reuse. The stated business model “blends community stewardship with entrepreneurial agility” and collaborates with both public and private sectors to deliver “a viable operation, requiring no ongoing subsidy.” The grand opening is slated for 2016.

Grant Hall Hotel, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Photo by Calvin Fehr

Designed by English Architect Richard Bunyard in 1927, the Grant Hall Hotel quickly assumed a prominent role in Moose Jaw life. The site of countless weddings and celebrations, it holds a firm place in the hearts of many residents. After closing down in 1989 following 60 years in operation, it stood vacant for over a decade, gradually falling into disrepair. By 2001, many had written off the old hotel and developers hoping to demolish began circling. Then, along came entrepreneurs Verna Alford and her brothers Alvin and Erwin Beug. They purchased the building and, over the next twelve years, undertook a painstakingly detailed restoration of Grant Hall. In 2013, it reopened its doors to great fanfare. The new Grant Hall Hotel combines a luxury hotel, restaurant, retirement residence and spa. With its interior opulently decorated with true Roaring Twenties glamour, it’s once again the place to be seen, proving the power of regeneration.

Gummer Building, Guelph, Ontario

Photo courtesy of Grinham Architects

Devastated by fire in 2007, Guelph’s Gummer Building was a shell of its former self and facing demolition when Skyline Group Inc. came to its rescue. Undaunted by the massive undertaking, Skyline, working with Grinham Architects, transformed the Gummer and its two neighbours, the Victoria and Stewart Drugs buildings, into a 77,000 square foot commercial and residential complex. Built from locally sourced limestone circa 1870 with later additions in the 1890s and early 1900s, the Neo-Classical/Italianate-style building is a fixture of Guelph’s historic downtown and a prime example of 19th century commercial stone architecture. It was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 2008. Now, stylishly restored with eco-sensitive upgrades and its historic character intact, the Gummer Building is breathing new life into its community, attracting people downtown and inspiring new investments in old buildings.

Festival House, Ottawa, Ontario

Photo by Ken Ingram

RBC Bluesfest, one of Canada’s largest outdoor music festivals, has given a one-hundred-year-old church a new lease on life. The former Westboro United Church in Ottawa has been carefully renovated as a dynamic new arts hub. Located at 450 Churchill Avenue North, it was gifted for the purpose of providing a new home for the Bluesfest School of Music and Art, operated in partnership with the local community centre. Festival House also provides office space for RBC Bluesfest, Folk Fest, Ottawa Festivals, and local arts organizations. The $2-million project, conceived in 2011, turned the newly deconsecrated and vacated church into a community networking centre for arts and culture. The careful renovation preserved many of the church’s heritage features—including its stained glass windows—while creating a comfortable environment for festival staff and community members. Organ flue pipes that had once been removed from the building were imaginatively reinstated to form a second-floor corridor. The conversion maintains the building’s history as a community gathering place.

Notman House, Montreal, Quebec

Photo courtesy of Notman House

The former home of pioneering photographer William Notman is quickly becoming a landmark of Montreal’s burgeoning tech startup industry. Designed by John Wells, the house was built in 1845 for former Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Quebec (and noted pistol-duelist) Sir William Collis Meredith. The house was later bought my Notman, who lived there from 1879 until his death in 1890 and went on to become St. Margaret’s Home for the Incurables, run by the Sisters of St. Margaret, who occupied the house until 1991. Over the next 10 years, the house cycled through several tenants, then stood vacant for another decade. In 2012, the heritage-designated Notman House was purchased by the OSMO Foundation, which invested $7 million in its restoration with money raised from diverse sources including government funding, corporate donations and crowdfunding. Officially launched in 2014, today Notman House, the “Home of the Web,” fulfills the OSMO Foundation’s goal of facilitating the transfer of knowledge and stimulating innovation by providing affordable co-working space as well as mentoring and development tools to Montreal’s budding tech entrepreneurs.
No. 2 Fire Station, Moncton, New Brunswick

Photo courtesy of Moncton Youth Residences Inc.

This municipally designated heritage building in downtown Moncton is the last surviving fire station of the original four built in the city. It had been empty for three years when Moncton Youth Residences Inc. (MYR) purchased it in 2003. MYR’s vision was to offer one-stop services to at-risk youth and the homeless in a community where substance abuse, prostitution, crime and high school dropout rates were all on the rise. Through this project, MYR creatively re-purposed the Fire Station to provide a range of support services, including academic upgrading opportunities, vocational training, transitional housing, employment counselling, and young offender services. At the same time, historic windows and brick masonry were preserved, and the prominent hose-drying tower, which boasts original beams, was retained. During the construction phase, a crew of young people from the Westmorland Institution’s early release program came to work and learn on the jobsite. No. 2 Fire Station is now a key element in Moncton’s social infrastructure.

West Point Lighthouse Museum and Inn, West Point, Prince Edward Island

Built in 1875, the 21-metre tower overlooking the Northumberland Strait at Egmont Bay stands among the Island’s tallest. It operated as a manned lighthouse until 1963, after which it fell into a serious state of decline. In 1987, a group of enterprising volunteers named the West Point Development Corporation saw the potential to turn a sagging local economy around using heritage and tourism, and converted the lighthouse into an inn, chowder kitchen and museum. Now a four-star inn, the facility was recently recognized as one of the top eleven lighthouse inns in the world. Carol Livingstone, President of the Prince Edward Island Lighthouse Society, identifies West Point as a catalyst that has turned the area into a distinctive destination, contributed to the local economy, stimulated investments in the wharf and marina, and paved the way for many more businesses and community projects in the area. Once a deteriorating relic, this landmark has proven to be a resilient, adaptable asset.

Town of Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador

Located on Newfoundland’s northeast coast, the Town of Bonavista (population 3,589) was first settled in the mid-17th century. Formerly an important fishing centre, Bonavista was severely impacted by the moratorium on northern cod in 1992, and its future was in doubt. But the Town wisely turned to its heritage assets to help sustain its future, leveraging an extensive collection of 19th-and early 20th-century buildings to develop new economic opportunities.

Through a partnership with the Bonavista Historic Townscape Foundation, the community launched several heritage conservation initiatives, including a cost-share grant program for exterior restoration work, a range of building rehabilitation projects, and improvement projects in the town centre and harbourfront. The Town also made use of employment and skills development programs to train local workers in traditional wood carpentry. Thanks to its efforts, Bonavista has revitalized its community and improved the quality of life of its residents. In recognition of these achievements, the National Trust for Canada awarded the Town of Bonavista the Prince of Wales Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership in 2014.