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Council signs off on heritage sites

The first phase of the city’s long-envisioned heritage-themed park on Meadowview Drive will be largely complete in time for St. Albert’s 150th anniversary, officials assured council on Monday.
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The first phase of the city’s long-envisioned heritage-themed park on Meadowview Drive will be largely complete in time for St. Albert’s 150th anniversary, officials assured council on Monday.

Members of city council gave the green light to phase one of the five-stage heritage sites master plan. Phase one focuses on repairs to St. Albert’s historic grain elevators.

Council previously approved $295,000 to kick-start the planning process, while another $1.5 million is included in the 2010 budget that’s set to be approved Dec. 14.

On Monday council heard the majority of the work on phase one will be completed in time for the 150th anniversary celebrations in 2011, a prospect that had some members tingling with excitement.

“It’s exciting to see the heritage sites development finally get started,” said Coun. Lorie Garritty. “We have the grand vision, but you have to start with phasing and what a great place to start.”

The scope of the work in phase one involves the restoration of the two Alberta grain elevators, along with a fire mitigation strategy, interpretive display area and landscaping around the site.

According to Gail Barrington-Moss, director of cultural services, the Alberta Wheat Pool Elevator, built in 1929, is generally in good condition, but there are areas of concern regarding the ingress of water to foundation and crawl space areas.

The second elevator, the 1906 Alberta Grain Company structure, is also in good condition given its age, but has a slight lean that needs to be addressed soon.

The good news is the costs came in nearly $16,000 under the $1.76-million overall budget for the restoration, but Barrington-Moss said those funds might be needed once the restoration process begins. The tender for the project will be put out in early 2010.

“We don’t know until we start to open things up what we are going to find,” said Barrington-Moss. “The work that’s being done will enhance and bring the elevators back to where they need to be.”

Restoring the elevators is one challenge, while maintaining their health is another. Council was also informed it would cost $25,000 a year for annual maintenance to the elevators, then an additional $60,000 every five years and $110,000 every 10 years to keep the structures in mint condition.

The city is eligible for provincial funding for upkeep of the buildings.

The grain elevators were purchased by the city in 1991 because of their importance to the community and Alberta.

The 1906 Alberta Grain Company Elevator is one of the oldest in the province and the 1929 elevator is one of the oldest remaining Alberta Wheat Pool elevators.

Both have been deemed as provincial historic resources and municipal historic resources, and are open to the public on a seasonal basis from May to September.

Grain Elevator Park is managed by the Arts and Heritage Foundation. The five expansion phases will be built as budgets allow. The park will include replica French Canadian and Métis farms from the fur-trading eras and interpretive features explaining what farm life was like in the area.

Current historic buildings, such as the Chevigny, Cunningham and Hogan houses will be restored and placed on new foundations in the park.

The idea is to create a historic attraction where residents and tourists can experience what life was like for early settlers in St. Albert.




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