Historic signs were removed from the fronts of the Club Cafe and the Buffalo Hotel on Thursday, as the City of Red Deer moves closer to demolishing two of the downtown’s oldest buildings this summer.
Unlike the structures they were affixed to, the familiar signs that identified both Ross Street buildings for decades will be preserved. The large cafe and hotel markers are to be moved to the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery’s storage rooms.
Jennifer Nwachukwu, Capital Projects Engineer for the city, said a temporary lane and sidewalk closure was needed to accommodate the sign removal on Thursday. On Monday, the street in front of the Buffalo Hotel will be blocked off from traffic for most of the day to allow utilities to be disconnected from the buildings, also prior to demolition.
Nwachukwu estimates the exterior building demolition work will begin in early to mid-August, with completion estimated for September. The tender was awarded to Bettenson’s Sand & Gravel in May.
Meanwhile, construction crews have been busy removing hazardous materials, including asbestos, from the buildings. Fencing was set up behind the hotel to ensure the safety of the abatement project, and as a security measure to help keep unauthorized individuals from entering the building, said Nwachukwu.
Once the interior abatement work is completed, crews will move to the next step — installing the demolition fencing around the buildings for public safety.
The intensive wrecking operation will require more sidewalk and road closures on Ross Street and Gaetz Avenue as the demolition gets underway, as well as the clean-up and back-filling to level out the existing basements.
The full costs of pulling these two old buildings down will be finalized at the end of the project, once all the details have been calculated, she added.
Red Deer city council decided last December to demolish both historic buildings in hopes of attracting new development. The site could be combined with existing city-owned vacant lot at 5022 49 Street, former location of the historic Arlington Hotel, to offer a prime downtown space for redevelopment.
The oldest part of the Buffalo Hotel is from 1903, while the Club Cafe next door was built in the 1920s. Both buildings have important associations with early Red Deer, but Mayor Ken Johnston said an assessment determined the buildings were too run-down to renovate.
City council discussed purchasing the buildings in close-door meetings that took place over some months. The city purchased the properties at 5021 and 5023 Ross (50th) Street to have the buildings demolished as part of plans to address derelict properties and support downtown revitalization.
Council hasn’t yet decided what to do with the large empty lot that will be created in the middle of the downtown, with some councillors suggesting a skating rink or benches be added.