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July 2nd, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 26
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Provincial program to preserve
historic buildings in Pass
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
stock photo
Downtown Blairmore
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
The province’s plan to keep the community’s historic structures in good shape is to turn property owners into conservationists, through cash incentives.
“Where else are you going to get 50 per cent of the money to do this kind of work?” says Robert Earley associate, heritage and communication planner with Community Design Strategies.
The Heritage Inventory Project is allowing certain property owners to apply for up to $50,000, per year, in matching funds from the province if their buildings are designated historically significant.
“I think the main thing with a historic building is that it continues to be used,” says Early “A historic building that sits empty doesn’t last long, it tends to deteriorate. But a historic building that has a use lasts for a long time.”
For two years, Earley and his team have been hard at work researching historically significant buildings in the community.
Last year they completed research on structures in Coleman west to the border. This year they’ve covered Frank and Blairmore. A third phase will cover Hillcrest, Bellevue and surrounding rural areas.
Thirty-five buildings in Blairmore and Frank have been designated as historically significant.
These include the Brisco Building; built after the 1912 downtown fire and now home to Stone’s Throw Café, the Cosmopolitan Hotel; built by E. Morino for Abraham Sparks after the original structure burnt down and the Thomson/Fazio building; at times a café, furniture store and general store and now the home of Spry hard goods, fitness and yoga.
“The Crowsnest Pass has a tremendous amount of historic fabric,” says Earley. “It has a lot more historic buildings than we have time to work on in any one year. We started out with 101 buildings to look at but we only had time to do research on 35.”
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Steve Atkinson, owner and operator of the Stone’s Throw Cafe, says he’d consider taking advantage of the Heritage Inventory Project now that his building has been designated historically significant.
“This whole community should keep its historical theme,” says Atkinson. “While doing renovations a few years ago, we discovered that the original brick had been covered up. There used to be a beautiful arched window in front of this place. It would be nice to restore the building to its original appearance.”
To qualify for the program a building has to be designated. The designation process is done through the municipality at the owner’s request.
“Just because we’ve narrowed it down to 35, doesn’t mean more work can’t be done,” says Earley. “If a building owner feels their building is historically significant they can approach the municipality.”
Community Design Strategies follows a codebook for identifying the architectural features of a building and then comes up with a statement of significance, says Earley.
But with government money comes liability. The owners will be responsible for maintaining their building’s defining characteristics. This could limit the kinds of alterations an owner can do to their property.
In some cases, and in collaboration with a conservation officer, owners can have extensions added to buildings as long as they don’t alter the original structure.
In addition, applicants might not always receive the full amount they apply for because the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation’s budget, which is funding the project, is limited, says Earley.
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July 2nd ~ Vol. 84 No. 26
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