As anyone who works in the downtown core knows, back in March a fire broke out in the Kelly-Ramsey Blocks at Rice Howard Way and 101A Avenue.
These conjoined brick buildings are two of the oldest in Edmonton and well-known to anyone who ever ate in the Bistro Praha.
I’m sure many Edmontonians miss that restaurant, but the loss of a restaurant is of much less importance to the downtown than preserving these two buildings.
The Kelly Building was built in 1915 and the Ramsey Building was joined to it in 1927. Given our civic passion for tearing down buildings of historical and architectural merit, it is a wonder these two buildings have managed to survive as long as they have. The question now is what is in store for them in the future?
The buildings are still vacant and have become a huge stain on one of the more agreeable areas of the downtown. Unfortunately, there’s no indication anything is underway that is going to change that. This is not a good sign. Our recent history has shown the city has either been unable or unwilling to save buildings that have suffered similar fates. The Arlington Building is just one such example.
The Arlington was Edmonton’s first apartment building. It stood at the corner of 106th Street and 100 Avenue for almost 100 years before it was damaged by fire in 2005. Prior to the fire, the owner had received $375,000 from the city in historic grants for the rehabilitation of the building.
After a fruitless discussion between the city and the owner, it was determined by the owner’s architect that the building was beyond restoration. This determination led to a long, drawn-out confrontation between the city and the owner. The owner wanted to redevelop the site.
The city wanted the façade retained in any new development. The owner said that would be too expensive. In the end, the city lost the argument and a building that was both a Provincial Historic Resource and a Municipal Historic Resource was demolished in 2008.
One can only hope the same fate will not befall the Kelly-Ramsey Blocks. Surely the city has some means at its disposal that can be used to kick-start the restoration of these two important buildings.