The City of Summerside has started a major demolition project in hopes of improving its downtown.
Four buildings are coming down: the former Royal Bank, Crockett's Jewelry, the former Cooke Insurance building and the Regent, which was once a movie theatre but more recently a bar and restaurant.
City officials said some have been vacant for more than a decade and described them as unsightly and dangerous.
"We had raccoons sitting in the windows in some of the shops … there was graffiti, there was broken glass," said Deputy Mayor Norma McColeman.
McColeman said the city wants to get people downtown and it needs to be revitalized to get them there.
"The buildings had to come down," she said.
Preparing for future development
The City of Summerside purchased the properties and is paying for demolition and site preparation needed for future development.
The entire project is expected to cost about $1.2 million, but officials hope to recoup costs once a developer takes over.
"We needed to have the ground prepared and development ready, or shovel ready," McColeman said.
The city has taken short-term ownership of the land to help with future development, she said, as demolition and the ground work would be a high cost to developers.
"We felt we had to move forward on that property," she said.
Local historian disappointed
While some describe the area as an eyesore, a local historian said he would like to have seen some buildings saved.
"I'm feeling very sad," said George Dalton, past president of the Summerside and Area Historical Society.
We can't leave it vacant any longer. — Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart
He said the project is going to take out two very important buildings.
"Crockett's Jewellers and the Royal Bank, now those two buildings were very solid, they should have been saved," he said.
Dalton said there should have been more public consultation before the demolition went ahead.
Residential and commercial plans
The mayor of the city said specific designs haven't been made yet.
"We are looking at some commercial space and maybe apartments on top of the commercial space," said Basil Stewart.
He said the project will be a "game changer" for the city.
With the buildings vacant for so long, the city lost out on tax revenues, Stewart said.
"We can't leave it vacant any longer," he said. "You need people in the business area."
Stewart said it will be great for the city to redevelop the corner. He said there are developers interested but details have yet to be worked out.
Stewart expects construction to begin next spring.
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