The City of Lethbridge and Sumus Property Group Ltd. gave a sneak peak of redevelopment plans for the downtown post office building on Thursday.
Construction costs are set to exceed $12 million, making the commitment by Sumus the biggest single private investment in downtown Lethbridge in almost 20 years.
The project is being called “Post” in recognition of its history as a Canada Post office.
The building, which was constructed in 1913, is one of the most iconic in Lethbridge. But those involved with the project say it was time for some modernization.
“The goal really is to create a vibrant new hub in downtown Lethbridge,” said Kendal Hachkowski, the managing director of Sumus Property Group.
Sumus is the first-ever private owner of the building — also known as the J.D. Higinbotham Building — which was previously owned by the federal government.
The clock-tower-clad building will maintain its historical status and continue to house Canada Post on the main floor, but under the ownership of Sumus, it will welcome new commercial tenants.
“There hasn’t traditionally been an opportunity for businesses of varying sizes to purchase and own space in downtown,” Hachkowski said. “We’re going to bring that option to them with 700- to 7,000-square-foot options.”
The project is expected to cost between $12 million and $17 million.
The commitment by Sumus to the city is one that city officials say is a massive step in the right direction for continued downtown revitalization efforts.
“It comes at a very critical point for us,” said Andrew Malcolm, the urban revitalization manager for the City of Lethbridge. “There’s no doubt that we’ve been through some challenges recently in the downtown.
“To see private investment in the most iconic building in Lethbridge comes at an incredibly important time for us.”
The investment comes soon after Six08 Health announced a major redevelopment along 5 Avenue S.
Malcolm said the city is showing its support for the project through improvements to the space surrounding the building.
“We had plans already in place to do public realm enhancements — that council had committed dollars to — and so it just made sense for those projects to align,” he said.
According to a city statement, improvements near the Post building will include the addition of a new bike lane along 7 Street and a public art feature.
Sumus and the city will also establish a long-term agreement that would allow tenants and clients of Post businesses to park in the downtown Park n’ Ride facility.
Construction is expected to take two to five years.
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