- City continues to invest in downtown renovations
- Re-vamped buildings attract new businesses to Medicine Hat
Once again this year, the City of Medicine Hat is making $284,000 available for property owners to renovate buildings located within the Downtown Revitalization Zone.
Applications will be accepted beginning March 6 at 9 a.m. In 2016, the program was fully subscribed within 48 hours.
“The results of this program are plain to see,” said Mayor Ted Clugston, noting that every $1 invested by the City has netted $10 invested by the private sector. “Entire buildings have been gutted and rebuilt. Downtown Medicine Hat looks fantastic.”
To learn more about the Downtown Development Incentive Program (DDIP), Invest Medicine Hat sat down with real estate developer Aaron Burghardt to discuss the Hutchison Block redevelopment, now home of FWBA Architects.
More than money
In 2014, Burghardt received grant funding towards the renovation of the Hutchinson Block, a retail landmark in Medicine Hat’s downtown, originally built in 1911.
The DDIP not only contributed toward project capital, it was instrumental in building relationships with the city throughout the permit process and proved helpful when approaching lenders.
“Financial institutions are more confident in investing in you when the city has your back,” said Burghardt, noting that confidence can be shaky when it comes to renovating a 100-year-old building, given there are bound to be surprises along the way.
It took two years of intensive renovations to revitalize the Hutchinson Block. The wooden store front was replaced with a steel insert, the basement received new structural supports and the upstairs was gutted and transformed into two self-contained apartments. New electrical and plumbing were among the replacements that brought the building up to modern code.
Although much of the Hutchinson Block’s structure was replaced, Burghardt kept as many of the original elements as possible, including the wood floors and tin ceiling.
“I think I pulled about 7,000 nails redoing that ceiling,” he said.
A vibrant community
All of Burghardt’s hard work paid off in summer 2016 when FWBA Architects moved into the Hutchinson Block.
One of Canada’s first architecture firms, FWBA was expanding from their base in Lethbridge and was drawn to downtown Medicine Hat because of the prime location and proximity to some the city’s best coffee shops and lunch spots.
“We wanted to have a place that was vibrant and located in the community,” said David Cocks, a principal at FWBA Architects.
While admiring the elegant office space, Cocks said some of the benefits to opening FWBA’s third location in Medicine Hat is the abundance of work as well as the ease of making personal contacts and getting involved in the community fundraisers.
DDIP to continue success
Burghardt found the renovation of the Hutchinson Block rewarding and the DDIP helpful in completing the intensive renovation.
“I certainly encourage the city to find ways to keep this project alive and support new projects and hopefully they keep adding value to the city,” said Burghardt.
With assistance available from the city of Medicine Hat, the process of turning an older building into a multi-use, desirable location is smoothed out and continues prepping the downtown as a prime location for commercial and residential spaces.
For more information about the DDIP, contact Sandra Blyth, business support officer, at the City of Medicine Hat.