When Ken Biemens was young, downtown Medicine Hat was the soul of the city.
Driven, in part, by nostalgia for his youth, in June 2014, Biemens, together with his wife Marlene and son Alex, purchased 617 and 620 Second Street SE and began renovations.
“Ten years ago, this place was ready for a bulldozer,” said Biemens. “And that’s a critical stage. If you let your downtown go, the whole place can become a bit of a mess.”
That all changed with the City of Medicine Hat’s $1.6 million infrastructure upgrade to the 600 block of Second Street, which upgraded water mains, storm sewers, and roads alongside streetscape enhancements including new boulevards, trees, benches, and bike racks.
“That City investment was huge,” said Biemans. “It showed the City was willing to stick their neck out.”
Since they purchased the buildings, the Biemans have completed extensive upgrades of their own.
“We stripped them down to the shell and are building them back up,” said Biemans. “Our goal is to preserve the original feeling of the buildings.”
For starters, all the infrastructure was upgraded to code. The electrical was upgraded to support a modern commercial tenant, new windows and doors were installed, and additional supports were added to the basement.
Exterior renovations to 617 Second Street exposed an old painted sign: King Edwards Billiard Hall. Fittingly, Biemans has dubbed the newly renovated building the King Edward, with plans to restore the sign to its original shape. 620 Second Street, meanwhile, has been named the Marshall Building.
As renovations near completion, Ken feels confident his investment will pay off. Indeed, a retailer is tentatively confirmed for the Centennial Building, which leaves the 3,000 square foot King Edward up for grabs.
If Biemans has his way, he’ll see the space transformed into a restaurant or pub, “the kind of space where people can hang out for a few hours,” said Biemans. “Because the soul of your city can’t survive in the suburbs.”