Brandon Fire and Emergency Services personnel line up their vehicles in the doors as they prepare to leave the Princess Avenue fire hall for the last time in August 2010. Samson Engineering Inc. and Bowerbird Holdings Inc. have submitted proposals to redevelop the space.
The fate of downtown Brandon’s vacant historic fire hall will be decided sometime in the new year.
A digital rendering of an outdoor patio facing Princess Avenue is part of Bowerbird Holdings’ proposal submitted to the city for the vacant fire hall downtown. (SUBMITTED)
A designer’s sketch of a market space submitted to the city as part of
Bowerbird’s proposal. (SUBMITTED)
A request for proposals was posted in early August to the city’s website, about two months after city council rejected a grassroots attempt to start a co-operatively owned and operated brewpub in the space.
Friday, Dec. 13, marked the deadline for proposals and in late January or early February a presentation and recommendation will be made to city council.
According to the City of Brandon’s website, bids were received from Samson Engineering Inc. and Bowerbird Holdings Ltd.
While Samson wasn’t prepared to immediately reveal their potential plans, the Brandon Sun acquired sections of Bowerbird’s proposal through owners Jason and Robyn Sneath.
Bowerbird’s proposed plans for the exterior include replacing current garage doors with glass, adding green space and pavilion space for outdoor gatherings as well as an outdoor patio space facing Princess Avenue.
Bowerbird’s vision for the main floor of the building includes an open concept market hall for mixed-use dining and retail developments. Dining options could include one flagship anchor restaurant that will be partially separated from the rest of the hall, with its own seating area and would potentially apply for a liquor licence.
"We propose a southern BBQ-style restaurant that pays homage to the fire hall’s history its playful interpretation of the fire hall theme through its menu and decorating (i.e. ‘The Brandon Smokehouse’)," the proposal states.
"The emphasis throughout will be a focus on local goods," Jason Sneath said via email. "As is typical with a building of this age, repair work will be required on the roof, and upgrades to meet modern fire codes will be essential for the renovation."
A high-end coffee shop, bakery, an open food court and space for local retail vendors could also be included on the main floor, he said.
The second and third floors have potential for one-bedroom and studio-style accommodations. These could include six units on the second floor and four units on the third floor to respond to Brandon’s affordable housing need, he said.
"Affordable can still be beautiful. These units will be small yet functional and will feature the heritage elements of the building that have been preserved, such as the arches on the second floor."
Tara Fowles, executive assistant to Samson Engineering senior engineer and president Phil Dorn, said the historic downtown building has a lot of potential. Although Fowles was unable to reveal too many details surrounding their proposal, she did mention potential commercial space on the main level and the possibility of residential, condo and professional office space on the other levels.
"As for our plans right now, we’re just going to sit on that for a bit," Fowles said. "There’s lots of hopeful plans, things we would like to see that we think would do great things for downtown Brandon.
"We definitely got big plans ... It would be wonderful if we move forward with them."
After several tours of the space, Fowles said the building overall is in good shape.
"For the function it was used for, they maintained it very well for that many years."
Maintaining the fire hall as a heritage building is also something Fowles said their proposal complies with. Since the Samson offices are near the site, Fowles said they would be able to oversee all of the work if their proposal is approved.
Both developers have experience renovating similar aging buildings in the Brandon area.
Bowerbird is currently redeveloping 1031 Rosser Ave. — the historic Fraser Block and former home of Pennywise Books.
According to Bowerbird’s application to the city, it wants to open a cosmetic and dermatology clinic to fill a service gap between Regina and Winnipeg. Plans also include an upscale café "selling high quality espresso-based drinks, smoothies and snacks," according to the proposal.
Jason Sneath previously told the Sun that renovations to the building’s upper floors will accommodate more office space, but added work won’t happen for five or 10 years.
Proposal submissions are being evaluated based on value and benefit to the city, economic opportunities, project schedule, company’s stability and experience as well as potential advances and vision for the Downtown Hub.
The fire hall sits on a 0.27-acre site, which includes 17,695 square feet of floor space and a six-storey hose tower. The potential developer will be able to fully utilize the site, as no on-site parking is required. Incentives such as tax increment financing, redevelopment grants, heritage grants and rent abatement may be made available on redevelopment plans and intended use.
Roland Weir Appraisal Associates prepared an appraisal of the property dated July 13, 2012. The appraised value of the property is $370,000.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 19, 2013