The future of one Red Deer’s oldest homes is looking brighter, as the fate of another remains hanging.
The J.J. Gaetz house, near the Red Deer Cemetery, is looking less neglected these days, since the provincial government fixed its leaky roof. The Parsons house site, in downtown Red Deer, however, still could be replaced by a new courthouse complex, or incorporated into it.
The J.J. Gaetz residence sits boarded up on Michener Centre grounds. But the provincially owned home is looking less dejected since Alberta Infrastructure replaced its sagging roof in December. The government is also conducting a hazardous materials assessment, with the final report expected this spring.
Other ongoing site maintenance has included lighting repairs, the removal of wind-damaged trees as well as hedge trimming along 55 Street.
Michael Dawe, a city councillor and local historian, is pleased to see this upkeep of one of the oldest farm houses in the Red Deer area, built by the nephew of Red Deer founder Rev. Leonard Gaetz.
Since the deteriorating condition of the J.J. Gaetz house caused much concern last spring, Dawe hopes recent provincial efforts mean there’s a longer-term plan to put the property to some community use.
The City of Red Deer has been interested in taking over ownership of the residence now surrounded by a chain link fence. ReThink Red Deer proposed using the house and land as an urban educational farm, and other proposals have also come in, said the city’s director of planning, Tara Lodewyk.
She’s pleased the province is keeping up with needed house maintenance. But before any purchasing decisions are made, Lodewyk said the city wants to review the results of the hazardous materials assessment to determine the costs involved.
According to Alberta Infrastructure, “there has been much public interest” in the future of the downtown Parsons House, now occupied by law offices. It could be torn down, moved or built into the Justice Centre project – but not much is yet known since land negotiations are still ongoing between the property owner and provincial government.
The $97-million Justice Centre will provide 12 courtrooms, with the capacity to expand to 16, and is expected to take four years to complete, across from the public library.
Dawe has unofficially heard that efforts will be made to incorporate the century-old Parsons House into the courthouse design. He hopes so, since the building that housed Red Deer’s first medical clinic was at one time a designated provincial historic site before being converted to municipal historic resource.
To have the province wreck a structure that it once sought to protect would make no sense, added Dawe. Whatever changes are proposed would require city council approval.