In the bag (building)
New owner of century-old Summerside property hoping to renovate and restore
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.