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Concerns over designation

St. Albert Place is one step closer to being enshrined in the city’s history, but not everyone is convinced it’s a good idea.

St. Albert Place is one step closer to being enshrined in the city’s history, but not everyone is convinced it’s a good idea.

On Monday, city administration presented a report to council that outlined the implications of naming city hall a municipal historical resource. Those implications? Nothing major, said general manager of community and protective services Chris Jardine.

“Administratively, we do not see any significant impacts or impediments to designating it as a municipal historic building,” Jardine said.

The report outlines the changes to the “defining character” of the building as anything that alters its exterior appearance or interior corridors.

The building would be subject to similar standards and guidelines that protect other historic buildings.

“The use of the building could be a lot of more civic administration or it could be more cultural, as long as the defining character doesn’t change,” said Jardine.

The building is one of architect Douglas Cardinal’s first creations, a well renowned architect who went on to design the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.

Coincidentally, the designation comes at the same time Cardinal plans to visit St. Albert to celebrate the building’s 25th birthday next month, but not everyone is on board.

Coun. Gareth Jones said he would like to know the details about the standards and guidelines associated with the designation before he approves it.

“I’d like to know what the guidelines are, to satisfy my own mind, whether there be any implications to the functionality [of the building],” Jones said.

According to Lynda Flannery, president of the St. Albert Taxpayers’ Association, the designation would limit the building’s use, and force the city to invest in a new administration building to deal with the space crunch at city hall.

“We think that our concern about this limitation is real because the report also says that changes would have to respect the heritage value of the building,” said Flannery on behalf of the association. “We think that the city is deliberately painting itself into a corner so it can make a case for a new administration building.”

In 2006, the city released a report that said St. Albert Place didn’t have enough office space for its employees. Locations for a new administrative building have been proposed, including a favoured location at the corner of St. Thomas and St. Anne streets.

In the spring of 2008, the city leased space in the professional building on St. Anne Street for some city staff. That fall, the project to build a new administrative building was put on hold until the city could come up with the $25 million it estimated was needed to build it.

According to Bob Treidler, the city’s general manager of business and strategic services, plans haven’t changed.

“With respect to the civic building we are not working on it presently,” said Treidler. “In terms of meeting our space requirements over the next several years, we will continue with lease space outside of city hall as we have the need.”

Jones raised a second motion on Monday for administration to provide the specific details about standards and guidelines for the maintenance of historic buildings should city hall be designated as such. That motion was passed and the report is due to council next week.