The Oliver Building ... If It's Walls Could Talk

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Where there’s history, and the will, there is always a way.

Downtown Lethbridge’s few remaining heritage buildings stand as a testament to our rich and colourful past.  Citizens and visitors to our downtown are drawn to their unique architecture, building materials and craftsmanship.

One of these heritage buildings still stands in the middle of our historical main street. The 110 year-old Oliver building located on 5th Street is an excellent example of a turn-of-the last century commercial building. Unfortunately, this building has remained vacant for a number of years and has suffered the ill effects of long-term exposure to the elements and nature.

Today, our community and City Council have an opportunity to save the building from any further damage and to hopefully see it fully rehabilitated and restored to its former glory. The owners of the building, the City of Lethbridge, have the opportunity to sell the building to a couple of local businessmen who are passionate about saving this unique heritage building. Hunter Heggie (King of Trade owner) and Brian Vandeberg (Skyline RV owner) are in the process of putting together a submission to save and restore this important piece of our community history. If restored, the Oliver building will help to revitalize what was once a very vibrant and active retail and commercial street.

The Oliver building was home to many businesses and employees throughout its 110 years. Many long-time residents still remember Stokes Drugs, the Sound Factory, Golden Gate Restaurant, the Purple Turnip Restaurant and even the King of Trade who once leased space in the building.

Heggie and Vandenberg are very optimistic that they can get the job done if they are successful in their request to purchase the building. Regardless of the extent of the restoration, including structural stabilization and environmental clean-up, they are prepared to invest whatever it takes to get the job done. With plans to develop the main level for retail and professional office space and housing on the top floors, they hope to breathe new life back into the heart of historic downtown Lethbridge. They have already secured a potential tenant for the main floor and are prepared to start work on the project immediately. All that is holding them back on this rehabilitation project is being selected by the City, signing the sales contract and receiving the keys to the building.

The City of Lethbridge acquired the Oliver building when the former owners of the building defaulted on their taxes. The City has recently put the building up for sale for the second time under a Request for Proposals bid process.  Heggie and Vandenberg are hopeful that their second proposal will be successful.

Having had the opportunity to tour the building along with Heggie, Vandenberg, Sam Richards (Sigma Pho Squared Engineering) and Dean Romeril (City of Lethbridge Facility Planner), I was inspired to hear all of the memories of the building that were shared during the walk-through. From the pressed metal ceilings, to artifacts from days gone by, the tour of the Oliver building was like a step back in time.  If only the walls could talk.

With some innovative engineering assistance, financial investment and manpower, we hope that this important heritage building and all the memories that it holds will be restored to what it once was.

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Posted on:
Monday, March 14, 2016