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  • Historic Buildings Add to Downtown

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    Our Downtown holds significance as the historic, symbolic, and perhaps most importantly, the functional core of Lethbridge. While suburban expansion of the City to the south, north, and west and several whole-block redevelopments of large sections of Downtown (i.e. Lethbridge Centre Mall and Park Place Mall) have changed the city centre markedly, Downtown retains many of the characteristics that made it an important regional centre for commerce, tourism, transportation and living over the last century including a fantastic supply of buildings with historic significance

    The preservation of these historic buildings along with the appropriate integration of new development with existing buildings has been a major focus of those involved in the revitalization of the Downtown. Whether big or small, dramatic or modest, historic buildings and compatible new development add richness and variety to the urban form of our Downtown and help forge a powerful bond between the present and past.

    For many years, buildings with historic significance have been viewed by some as a barrier to redevelopment. However, over the last decade, with the vision and guidance of City of Lethbridge’s Municipal Development Plan, Heart of Our City Master Plan, Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan and Heritage Management Plan, this perspective has largely been reversed by identifying practical and achievable objectives, actions, and strategies to protect and manage the Downtown and Lethbridge’s historic buildings.

    Today, historic buildings and the overall historic character of the Downtown are seen more as an asset than a burden to redevelopment. Some excellent examples of these efforts include: conservation of the Bowman Building, sensitive additions at the Galt Museum and Southern Alberta Art Gallery, adaptive reuse of Suites at 601 and Oliver Building, new construction of the Scotia Bank incorporating tyndall stone – a historic downtown element – and countless improvements to building facades and signage.

    Historic buildings provide character, continuity and a sense of uniqueness to our Downtown and the efforts of all those who have contributed time and financial investments to the protection, conservation, and integration of historic buildings in our Downtown is greatly appreciated as there is clearly value in old bricks.

    I challenge every resident to help Our Downtown to be the best it can be. With our partners on the Downtown BRZ and the Heart of Our City Committee, we encourage you to contribute to the content of this column with your comments, questions, ideas, and suggestions by engaging with us on Twitter (@DowntownLeth) using the hashtag #ourdowntown.

    * This column was published September 24, 2018 in the Lethbridge Herald.
    * Herald photo by Ian Martens

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