Founders decide to do it right with renovations

The ribbon-cutting at Riverside Office Plaza on Monday had all the markings of a grand opening.

The ribbon-cutting at Riverside Office Plaza on Monday had all the markings of a grand opening.

And, despite the fact the two-storey building overlooking the Red Deer River at 4919 59th St. dates back 3 1/2 decades, there’s plenty new inside and out.

Owner Parkland Properties Ltd. and its primary tenant, Parkland Fuel Corp. (TSX: PKI), have sunk more than $5 million into the structure.

That’s given it an upgraded heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, as well as a new roof and walls with beefed-up insulation.

Interior renovations have included modernization of office areas, the cafeteria and washrooms.

“We decided if we we’re going to do something, we were going to do it right,” said Jack Donald, who owns Parkland Properties and founded Parkland Fuel with his wife Joan.

As he prepared to help cut the ribbon, Donald shared some numbers about the impact of the changes: a 39 per cent reduction in natural gas usage for the November-to-January period, as compared with a year earlier.

“The building is getting greener, we’re polluting less, we’re spending less.”

Bob Espey, president and CEO of Parkland Fuel, said his company was happy to invest in its Red Deer headquarters — especially as it continues to expand across Canada and into the United States.

“It is very important that we have a continuing presence in Red Deer. And this office really is now servicing all of the country, for various functions.”

Parkland Fuel has been able to consolidate its local operations under one roof, as compared with about a half-dozen locations previously, and strengthens its connection to its roots.

That’s because Riverside Office Plaza became Parkland Fuel’s first real home in 1978.

Donald reflected on those early days, and the miniscule 1,200 square feet that his fledgling business then occupied. He recalled how the original cost of Riverside Office Plaza was considerably less than the value of the recent renovations.

“It was $3.3 million at the time and we just about fell over,” he said. “We were scared we were going to lose our shirts.”

Joan Donald concurred with her husband, recalling sleepless nights at the time.

It’s great to see the steel-frame building get a renewed lease on life, said Jack Donald.

“It makes sense in terms of dollars and cents, but it also makes sense environmentally to lessen your footprint.”

Given the rapid development that occurred in Red Deer during the 1970s and early 1980s, he believes similar renovation opportunities exist elsewhere.

“Red Deer has a bunch of buildings that are very usable, but people haven’t kept them up to date.”

In addition to Parkland Fuel, other tenants in Riverside Office Plaza are Alberta Blue Cross and Central Alberta Orthodontics