Edmonton looking at increasing grant funding for historic homes

·4 min read
The Armhein family in front of their home before the renovation work began. (Kyla Armhein/supplied - image credit)
The Armhein family in front of their home before the renovation work began. (Kyla Armhein/supplied - image credit)

Preserving history comes at a cost and Edmonton homeowners ready to make the commitment could see more financial support from the city in 2022.

Currently, the city's rehabilitation grant program for designated historic resources matches a homeowner's investment in projects up to $75,000

That was increased from $25,000 about a decade according to David Johnston, principal heritage planner with the City of Edmonton. Johnston said the $75,000 could increase to $100,000 in 2022.

"It's still enough to get people in the door," Johnston said. "It is a matching grant, but nonetheless, it's maximized fairly quickly. So we are contemplating the need to increase that grant perhaps to $100,000 for houses."

David Johnson is the principal heritage planner for the City of Edmonton.
David Johnson is the principal heritage planner for the City of Edmonton.(CBC)

He says the rise in construction costs and land values have limited the impact those dollars might have.

There is also a grant of up to $500,000 available to help owners of historic commercial buildings.

The exterior of the Hartley house as renovations are nearing completion.
The exterior of the Hartley house as renovations are nearing completion. (David Bajer/CBC)

To assess historic structures the city looks at things like the age of the building and historic significance. The integrity of the building is also examined.

The city also does neighbourhood assessments, though those are currently paused due to the pandemic.

Johnston said number of neighbourhoods that are aging into the program will soon increase dramatically.

"Up to this point we've been really reactive," he said.

"Now we've got all these neighbourhoods that are largely intact … and where do we start? Which one is the prime mid-century modern neighbourhood that we need to look at."

Protecting history

The Hartley house in the Westmount neighborhood is the latest addition to the city's designated historical resource list.

A former resident shared this photo with the Arnheim's of the Hartley house in 1987.
A former resident shared this photo with the Arnheim's of the Hartley house in 1987.(Kyla Arnheim/Supplied)

The city's records show the craftsman-style house was built in 1922 for Edward Hartley, a chauffeur at Imperial Oil.

It was built by local contractor Charles Witham, whose company went on to also build the now demolished Edmonton bus depot in 1940 as well as the Paramount Theatre on Jasper Avenue in 1950.

Hartley house is now owned by Kyla and Steven Amrhein who said the history of the home was one of the reasons they decided to buy.

The Amrhein's stand in front of their home which was lifted off its original foundation in September 2020. A new foundation was poured, which will allow the house to continue to stand on its original lot.
The Amrhein's stand in front of their home which was lifted off its original foundation in September 2020. A new foundation was poured, which will allow the house to continue to stand on its original lot. (Kyla Amrhein/Supplied)

"When we moved in we [found] a note on the stove that was left saying 'I raised my family here for 35 years, I hope it makes your family happy,'" Kyla Amrhein said.

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The Amrheins were able to participate in the city's program to get funding for repairing Hartley house.They decided to fix things up and add a few modern touches, like a walk-in closet, mudroom and ensuite bathroom.

They also wanted a new foundation, which used up a large portion of their grant funding, in addition to veranda upgrades, siding touch ups and a new window.

An interior view of the renovated Hartley house.
An interior view of the renovated Hartley house. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

Maintaining original materials was a priority for the family. Kyla Amrhein said they found create a way to reuse the floors, which otherwise were not salvageable.

"It was tragic," she said. "But we saved them and actually had [a local company] take the original hardwood floors and turn them into our dining room table."

The Armhein's young daughter sits at the table made from the original floors from the Hartley House.
The Armhein's young daughter sits at the table made from the original floors from the Hartley House.(Kyla Arnheim/Supplied)

Pandemic building

Tackling a historic renovation during a global pandemic made things a bit more interesting, Kyle Amrhein said.

They also had to adjust some tile choices and other minor details based on availability.

Michael Plamondon with Ackard Contractors said his team was able to work through the challenges.

"We had some supply issues, we've had some staffing issues if people have gone down for testing or illness," he said. "But we've been really fortunate [on this project] and have been able to maintain our timelines."

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