July 16, 2018
The old warehouse-style space on North Railway needed someone with vision to bring the property into the 21st century.
“It was an old, wide-open space,” said Josh Swanson, who went on to transform the forgotten property into the Summit Art & Sport Centre, a not-for-profit event space and indoor skate park used by entrepreneurs, photographers, and skateboarders. “I knew it would work and the owners wanted to see something happen.”
The idea for the Summit Centre was born from the loss of the skateboard association’s previous location, which collapsed after a heavy snowfall in 2011.
Swanson, who was the program director of the Medicine Hat Skateboard Association at the time, started plans to reopen under a new roof.
His hunt eventually led him to 2-221 North Railway Street where he seized the opportunity to build the Summit Centre’s new home.
In February 2015, the Summit Centre leased the building and began renovations of the 5,500 square foot space.
Swanson and a crew of friends and family tore up the carpet and painted the lilac walls white. They added wood feature walls to give a contemporary feel. Drywall was torn down, revealing brick walls. Revolution Builders and Janzen Builders added restrooms and walls.
In June 2015 the Summit Centre joined Priscilla Apartments and a handful of new businesses adding new life to North Railway. Recently, Heartwood Café opened in a restaurant-ready building. Now prime parking is hard to find at lunch hour and the butcher shop next door has witnessed an uptick of walk-ins.
Since opening, the Summit Centre has helped launch a number of small businesses. Gas City Tattoo built up a client base while renting a small office. Meanwhile, the large studio space provides a professional studio for Renew Dance and Secret Garden Therapeutic Yoga. And let’s not forget the skateboarders, who make use of the indoor skate park in rain and shine.
“One of our main goals was to offer a year-round space for people who wouldn’t be able to obtain something of this scale and aesthetic on their own,” says Swanson. “We’ve definitely accomplished that.”
Swanson encourages others with a vision for an older space, wherever the location, to team up with others and get their hands dirty.