Boomtown heritage building ready for new life

The rehabilitation of the Tipton Investment Company is now complete! Designated a Provincial and Municipal Historic Resource, the building is located within the Old Strathcona Provincial Historic Area along Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. It was constructed in the early days of the 1900s and survives as one of the last wood “boom town” style commercial structures in the district.

The current owners, with the assistance from their consultants, contractors, and provincial and municipal heritage regulators, have successfully preserved the heritage values of the modest single-story structure while expertly incorporating an addition. The rehabilitation not only changes the property to a creative two-story multi-tenant complex, but does so while honouring the wood building as the primary heritage value on the lot. Now that’s how it’s done!

The rehabilitation of the Tipton Investment Company is a shining example of how to keep what is of value, provide upgrades to services and increase the marketable floor spaces with an addition that fits. Getting the addition finished right is a complex architectural challenge and the design team for this project did just that.

The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada (S&Gs) is always the starting point for how to plan for a rehabilitation and addition. The first principle to keep in mind is to protect heritage values when any change is contemplated. Secondly, the S&Gs recommend that the best design for an addition to a historic place is to make it compatible, distinguishable and subordinate to what exists. Those three terms help make sure design discussions stay clear from repeating pseudo-historic details and additions that seek to out-shine the historic building. Rather, discussions lead to complimentary additions that relinquish prominence to the historic building and becomes a supportive element that reflects its own time and place.

The design team have produced just that with a plan that accommodates increased movement and circulation, as well as an addition that adds energy to the property. The design is successful because it carefully measured all the opportunities and constraints and produced a project that demonstrates that heritage buildings can meaningfully live for today and into the future.

3D rendering of rehabilitation project – July 2017 Source: Hodgson Shilf Evans Architects Inc.

The new commercial tenant occupying the original one storey-space has taken advantage of the high ceiling and the restored windows along the storefront, as well as the open floor plan, to accommodate a lively interior for their patrons. The upper floor and alley side tenants, away from the Whyte Avenue roadway, will nevertheless be well served by a gated inner courtyard that will be made accessible year- round.

The scope of this rehabilitation project was quite extensive, lasting over two years when factoring the research, design and construction stages: lifting the building to accommodate a new foundation; restoration of the storefront windows and metal siding; and incorporating the modern addition.

The developers of the Tipton Investment Company Building property recently received the 2018 Heritage Conservation Award from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation for the exceptional rehabilitation project. It is gratifying to see an example of a heritage structure, no matter how modest, respectfully revitalized for the future, taking its rightful place as an important and relevant contribution to the historic commercial neighbourhood.

Written by: Carlo Laforge, Heritage Conservation Advisor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s