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Calgary Herald : Former Bank of Montreal poised for $10M renovation

Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald
Published: Saturday, January 13, 2007

Innovative thinking will transform a vacant landmark building in the heart of downtown Calgary into world-class, modern office space.

The historic Bank of Montreal three-storey structure at the corner of 8th Avenue and 1st Street S.W., which has been empty since A&B Sound moved out a couple of years ago, will become the home of SURE Northern Energy later this year after a $10-million “rehabilitation” project inside the building for office use, the Herald has learned. The building’s heritage and unique features will be preserved.

The Canadian corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for the other users down here — the retail and the restaurants — bringing another 125 people to your downtown core without competition,” said Jeff Sklar, vice-president of Staubach Western Canada Corp., which acted on behalf of the tenants in securing use of the building site.

“It was outside-the-box thinking to look at this and say, ‘This would be a really unique office space.’ ”

In the process of securing the site, a change of use was approved by the city from retail to office.

Michael Permack, executive vice president of Staubach, said the development “actually revitalizes a building that was considered to be unusable.”

The current Bank of Montreal building was built in 1930-31 at a cost of $741,000. In 1988, it closed.

But in 1993 after a $2-million renovation that retained many of the original interior features, new owners A&B Sound re-opened the former bank building as a retail outlet. The store closed at the end of 2003.

According to a Herald heritage column in 2003, the building was described as neo-classical, clad in Manitoba tyndall stone. “Ashen green was the dominant colour in an opulent interior . . . The main entrance was framed in blue marble and crowned by a clock in a blue-and-white marble setting. Identical brass sculptures in the shape of classical Greek lamps stood on both sides of the doorway. Walls, floors, columns and counters were finished in four types of marble . . . The most impressive feature was the coffered ceiling with its moulded plaster rosettes encrusted with 917 ounces of gold leaf.”

Tim Milligan, manager of facilities and real estate for SURE Northern Energy, said the company has had a Calgary office since April in the northeast on Sunridge Way with about 30 people.

“Our organization is very excited about it (the move to the Bank of Montreal building),” said Milligan. “We’re looking forward to being a strong part of the community not only in Calgary but in Alberta. We think this historical side of it will be an important part of that and we anticipate as we proceed with the redevelopment of this building that the story of the building will be an important part of our story.”

Milligan said the company will eventually have about 125 staff in the Bank of Montreal building.

Bruce Graham, president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, said this was a welcome addition to downtown Calgary.

“I am pleased SURE Northern selected this vacant heritage site for their new office expansion. By preserving the city’s history, the restoration of this building will help enhance the vitality of downtown Calgary,” said Graham. “This development is an innovative solution to meet the SURE Northern’s office space needs.

“The space was intended for retail and seeing it used for office space speaks to the vibrancy and nature of the office market in downtown Calgary. The project will also help alleviate some of the tight office space market in Calgary.”

The building is 36,000 square feet and in the “best-case scenario” the company will move in during the third quarter of 2007.

“It’s a complete rehabilitation and restoration. We’re working very closely with the historical society,” said Milligan.

“We are taking a building that has infrastructure that is at best 16 years old, at worst 70 years old, and making it into what we think will be a world-class building.”

The company will maintain and preserve the building’s heritage on the exterior and in the interior.

“It will be up to date,” said Milligan of the work being done inside the building. “It will be modern. It will be functional. It will be a first-class office facility.

“The key was to be in Calgary and to be in the central business district in Calgary. We looked at other options in the suburbs but the CBD was where we felt we had to be.

“We had to be near other energy companies. Near where the real activity of the industry was at.”

In March 2006, it was announced that SURE Northern would evaluate and potentially develop heavy oil resources secured in the Feb. 8, 2006 Alberta Department of Energy Oil Sands Public Offering.

The company submitted the successful bid of $465 million for 10 parcels of land through a land agent. Later it was successful in securing five more parcels of land in another public offering for $101.2 million.

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Bank of Montreal Building

– Location: 140 8th Avenue S.W.;

– Built: 1930-31;

– Architect: Kenneth G. Rea, who also designed the Montreal Stock Exchange and 62 other buildings for the Bank of Montreal;

– Builder: Smith Brothers and Wilson;

– Original cost: $741,000.

– Described as neo-classical, clad in Manitoba tyndall stone. Ashen green was the dominant colour in an opulent interior. Main entrance was framed in blue marble and crowned by a clock in a blue-and-white marble setting. Identical brass sculptures in the shape of classical Greek lamps stood on both sides of the doorway. Walls, floors, columns and counters were finished in four types of marble. Also had a coffered ceiling with its moulded plaster rosettes encrusted with 917 ounces of gold leaf;

– Opened in 1932 at the outset of the Depression and for 50 years served as both regional headquarters and main office;

– Employees enjoyed a roof-top garden until 1940;

– When the Bank of Montreal opened the First Canadian Centre on Seventh Avenue in January 1983, the 1930 structure became a Personal Banking Centre until 1988 when it closed;

– Reopened as a retail outlet in 1993 by new owners, A&B Sound, following a $2-million renovation which retained many of the original neo-classical features;

– The store closed at the end of 2003.

Source: Calgary Public Library

© The Calgary Herald 2007
 

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