For a city that was for so long bent on removing what they deemed as derelict properties in place of modern construction, what a refreshing week it has been to see that a commitment to a part of our heritage was moving forward on schedule and slightly under budget.
The Dome Building project on the Keystone Centre grounds, as many would know, was a long-suffering structure. The building was a tremendously important piece of who we were, ushering in the idea of who we have become. This facility has direct ties to our collective heritage.
That is why it was great to learn this week that the restoration project currently underway at the facility was moving forward nicely.
The Dome Building effort, with the Restoring the Glory campaign, has got it right. By reaching out to funders in various government channels as well as the private community, they have been able to combine dollars, donations and in-kind services to supplement the investment into the project with the result being, first and foremost, progress and preservation.
The Dome Building and its continued restoration success raises a bigger question for our community though. When looking at some of the other potential projects in the works and the progress to date do we have time to linger long on decisions and action?
Some real positive projects in the works include the North Hill campus of Assiniboine Community College, the old fire hall downtown, First Baptist Church and of course the Strand Theatre. Each have a lengthy history under various incarnations within our community and each hold a key to learning about our past while ensuring the future has value in these locations.
The possibilities for each property is greatly provided, like in the case of the Dome Building project, the opportunity for investment and construction is there in a timely fashion. That is the crux of the whole thing, the one luxury most of these projects do not have is time, something the drivers behind them are usually keenly aware of but are often stymied by the slow movement of dollars and or actions of government.
There is no denying commitment to these projects from a development standpoint can be daunting and sometimes insurmountable to tackle but most of these projects could say that their present state of repair still makes them a possible entity to better this community.
The Dome Building and the Restoring the Glory campaign was launched to ensure a valuable piece of our history was not lost and thus far the proof is in the progress. It is true that this type of restoration is different than most any other but keeping progress moving should be something that is always "on the minds" of community planners and partners working with potential heritage properties.
The possibility to get it right is evident throughout the Prairies when we look at places like the Virden Aud, Clark Hall at Brandon University, the Agricultural Extension building, the West End Cultural Centre or the work being knocked around for the Roxy Theatre in Neepawa. Each project has tremendous value and each proves the ability to leverage community as well as government hand in hand.
As a cautionary tale for the effect of stagnant motives, Brandon need look no further than the former Prince Edward Hotel where the skate plaza now resides. The ultimate example of infrastructure from our past left to decay beyond repair and then ultimately scrapped in place of a parking lot for the better part of 20 plus years.
The Prince Eddy could have had the potential to be saved but the flavour of the day thought otherwise. The opportunity exists currently to have multiple projects fall the way of the Prince Edward Hotel if the community or government is hesitant or not prepared to step up and for citizens at least it doesn’t always need to be in the form of dollars. Like the Dome Building has taught us the opportunity exists through in-kind donations, as well as cash, to see progress on a project.
The bottom line is, if Brandonites are not able to throw their support behind a project with their pocketbook, then answering the call with your hands of support goes a long way to building the city many hope to see.
This community and its history is owned by all of us and we all should have a vested interest in making sure that story continues to be told through commitment to restoring our heritage for future generations.
» Shaun Cameron is a lifelong Brandon resident. He has dabbled in politics and is now chair of Renaissance Brandon, the city’s downtown development corporation. His column appears regularly.