Red Deer’s historic Parsons house will remain standing on the same downtown corner it’s occupied for the last 116 years.
The Alberta government says it recognizes the value of preserving the 1903 historic residence, even as the new $97-million Red Deer justice centre is built around it.
According to Diane Carter, spokesperson for Alberta Infrastructure, “We recognize the heritage value and importance of Parsons House and are supportive of its continued designation as a Municipal Historic Resource.”
The fate of the yellow brick home on 49 St., which had once held Red Deer’s first medical clinic, was put into question when the government purchased the land it sits on last year.
The Parsons property, as well as connecting land that held the recently demolished former RCMP station, were needed for the construction of the Justice Centre that will replace the cramped exisiting provincial courthouse.
But the City of Red Deer, as well as city council, including local historian Michael Dawe, have lobbied for the preservation of the historic Parsons house — one of the few buildings remaining that’s clad in brick from the original Red Deer brickyard.
Dawe said he’s very pleased the province has decided to preserve the “attractive-looking” neo-classical home, built by Dr. Richard Parsons on a prominent corner of Red Deer’s downtown.
He feels it could become a fine judges’ chambers — but whether the province’s plan is to connect the house to the new Justice Centre has not yet been revealed.
Dawe feels it’s important to preserve this tangible piece of local history as “there are not a lot of buildings of that age around…
“It’s one of the last buildings made of brick from Piper’s brickyard, it was our first medical clinic, and it contained one of the first X-ray machines in the province…”
Tara Lodewyk, director of planning services for the city, said she’s also happy to hear the house will be saved. “We did request the government of Alberta preserve Parsons house.”
How it will be incorporated into the Justice Centre is yet to be determined, she added, noting upcoming discussions will determine the layout of the complex.
If plans for the new justice centre are in compliance with the city’s downtown planning rules, the project will not have to go before the municipal planning commission or city council. However, Lodewyk expects there will likely be an public unveiling of what the complex will look like.
Site preparation for the new Justice Centre project is now wrapping up after a summer of clearing the property after the demolition of the former police detachment offices.
Carter said the Red Deer Justice Centre project will be tendered in winter 2020 with an expected completion date in summer 2023.
The new complex is being built to provide more space, with 12 courtrooms, and the capacity to expand to 16 courtrooms in total.
“Our consultant team is working on contract documents in preparation for the project construction tender,” added Carter.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is, meanwhile, expecting a development permit application to be filed in October.