The historic Buffalo Hotel will hopefully play a role in downtown revitalization once its current tenants relocate, says a co-owner of the building.
Later this year, Canadian Mental Health Association-Central Alberta Region will move its housing-first program, for people with a history of homelessness or addiction, about six blocks south to the Econo Lodge.
Stan Schalk, co-owner of Potter’s Hands Development Ltd., said there are no plans for the Buffalo at this point.
“I think the location is really an awesome location. We’re waiting to see if there’s any interest in some project,” Schalk said.
“It’s a beautiful building. Those old, oak floors are original. We refinished them all 10 years ago, so they could keep that original heritage look.”
He said Potter’s Hands purchased the building after the city’s social planning department asked the developer to be part of the housing-first initiative.
“When we bought the building, we put about $1 million into renovating it, so it has had some fairly recent renovations, but it definitely needs an overhaul.”
He said his relationship with the mental health association has been good over the past 12 years, but the organization is happy to be moving out, and Potter’s Hands is happy to not have to deal with housing-first issues.
“I think that overall it’s worked well. I think there were a lot of people housed through the Buffalo that would have never been housed.
“Probably it gave them a better life and extended their life. But it’s a difficult kind of housing to be involved with because of the addiction issues people bring in.”
Historian Michael Dawe said there’s been a hotel, or a converted hotel, on the site of the Buffalo continuously since 1892, when Red Deer first became a hamlet.
Part of the structure that still exists was built in 1903, along with the main section built in 1939, and an annex built in the early 1960s.
The Buffalo was one of a ring of hotels that developed around the downtown train station in Red Deer’s early days, and it’s one of two that remain, he said.
“The Windsor burned down. The Arlington was torn down. The Valley has been turned into social housing, as had the Buffalo,” Dawe said.
At one time, many community functions and service club meetings were held at the Buffalo because it had a good-sized banquet hall in the basement, he said.
“I remember as a kid going with my father to Rotary Club meetings in the lower part of the Buffalo.”
Dawe said the hotel also has a celebrity connection. It was used by kd lang, who hosted a television show called Buffalo Cafe.
“There were a number of scenes filmed around the reception desk in the Buffalo.”
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