In the bag (build­ing)

New owner of cen­tury-old Summerside prop­erty hop­ing to ren­o­vate and re­store

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY COLIN MACLEAN Colin.MacLean@Jour­nalPioneer.com @Jour­nalPMacLean

The for­mer P.E.I. Bag Com­pany build­ing at 340 Wa­ter St. has a new owner with big plans.

Deb­bie McGrath, of Jack­son’s Point, Ont., fi­nal­ized the sale of the prop­erty last week.

McGrath said she in­tends to start ren­o­vat­ing as soon as pos­si­ble.

“I bought it to re­store it,” she said. “I’m meet­ing with a num­ber of ar­chi­tects on Mon­day.”

Her plan is to turn the for­mer ware­house and fac­tory into mixed-use res­i­den­tial/busi­ness units. There would be apart­ments on the sec­ond and third storeys and of­fice space on the ground floor.

Her own com­pany will oc­cupy some of that space.

McGrath is the owner and pres­i­dent of HR.com, which spe­cial­izes in var­i­ous hu­man re­sources-re­lated ser­vices, in­clud­ing on­line ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.

HR.com has of­fices in the U.S. and Canada, in­clud­ing in Summerside’s Hol­man Build­ing. It opened here in Septem­ber 2016 and em­ploys 11 peo­ple.

McGrath said she in­tends to move out of the Hol­man Build­ing and into her new prop­erty in the com­ing weeks.

She hopes to fo­cus her ren­o­va­tion ef­forts on the ground floor at first, for her em­ploy­ees, and doesn’t ex­pect the over­all ren­o­va­tions to be com­pleted un­til at least next year.

So why did she make this in­vest­ment?

McGrath said that un­til re­cently she owned a sim­i­lar build­ing in On­tario. It was a re­stored feed mill and she en­joyed the prop­erty.

She sees an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing sim­i­lar with the old Bag Com­pany build­ing.

“It re­minded me so much (of that build­ing),” she said.

“It has so much po­ten­tial, it just needs some ten­der lov­ing care. But in this case it’s even more spe­cial be­cause it’s right on the ocean, in a small com­mu­nity and right down­town. So I think it could be a beau­ti­fully re­stored build­ing with lots of light and open-air workspaces and apart­ments. I think it’s a great op­por­tu­nity.”

The build­ing def­i­nitely has char­ac­ter, said Roger Wells, who bought the prop­erty in 2010 and owned it un­til McGrath pur­chased it from him.

“It’s beau­ti­ful – ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful in here,” said Wells.

The build­ing was con­structed around 1870 by the Le­furgey fam­ily.

Af­ter un­cov­er­ing a sec­tion of the chim­ney a few years ago Wells found dozens of sig­na­tures from P.E.I. Bag Com­pany em­ploy­ees start­ing around the 1930s.

The build­ing also tem­po­rar­ily housed the 105th Bat­tal­ion dur­ing the First World War af­ter its bar­racks burned down.

The old vault is still in the build­ing as well, said Wells, and he’s heard ru­mours that some­one tried to break into it in the 1940s by dig­ging a tun­nel.

Its long­est-term oc­cu­pant was the P.E.I. Bag Com­pany, which started in the build­ing in the 1930s, but moved to Bed­eque in 2010.

Deb­bie McGrath

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