Project of­fers stylish liv­ing with his­tory

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties - PA­TRICK LANGSTON OTTAWA CI­TI­ZEN

CANWEST NEWS SER­VICE

AL­MONTE, ONT.

When Santa parks his rein­deer atop Al­monte’s 150-year-old Vic­to­ria Woollen Mill, he has to com­ply with the poop-and-scoop reg­u­la­tion.

It says so right in the le­gal con­do­minium cor­po­ra­tion doc­u­ment ex­tend­ing an­nual land­ing rights to the jolly old fel­low.

All of which may make the ven­er­a­ble build­ing at 7 Mill St. the only for­mer tex­tile mill in the world that’s be­ing re­pur­posed for stylish, river­side condo liv­ing, while guar­an­tee­ing Santa a touch­down strip.

Neigh­bourly ges­tures like th­ese rooftop rights typ­ify Al­monte, a 20-minute drive west of Kanata, Ont., in his­toric La­nark County.

With its vi­brant arts com­mu­nity (the Pup­pets Up! In­ter­na­tional Pup­pet Fes­ti­val is a mustsee Au­gust event), gift and other spe­cialty shops, pic­turesque set­ting in­clud­ing the Mis­sis­sippi River cours­ing through town, and prox­im­ity to the big city, Al­monte is on a growth track.

But even while groom­ing it­self for ex­pan­sion, Al­monte — cur­rent pop­u­la­tion about 4,800 — is de­ter­mined to hold fast to its small-town charm.

Nowhere is this hy­brid of past and fu­ture more ev­i­dent than in the Al­monte Her­itage Re­de­vel­op­ment Group’s res­ur­rec­tion of old in­dus­trial build­ings, like the Vic­to­rian Woollen Mill, into down­town res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial space.

The goal is af­ford­able down­town hous­ing and vi­brant busi­ness space that’s es­sen­tial if small towns are to short-cir­cuit ur­ban sprawl and high­way com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment that kill their cen­tre cores.

“We’re try­ing to cre­ate a neigh­bour­hood in the style of West­boro or the Glebe, where you can walk out the door and pick up a loaf of bread or a book,” says Stephen Brath­waite, founder of the group with Greg Smith.

Since 1993, Brath­waite, a na­tion­ally rec­og­nized glass artist, pup­peteer and self-styled re­de­vel­oper, and his Al­monte part­ners have snapped up his­toric down­town prop­er­ties for ma­jor makeovers.

The Vic­to­ria Woollen Mill was the first. Back­ing onto a wa­ter­fall of the Mis­sis­sippi River and boast­ing oiled wooden beams and deep-set win­dows, it now in­cludes a ground-floor restau­rant, art gallery and shops.

The bal­ance of the build­ing is mostly oc­cu­pied by busi­nesses, but those units are now avail­able as con­dos, 10 in all rang­ing from 900 to 2,000 square feet and priced at roughly $175,000 to $385,000.

Thoburn Mill is an­other of the group’s “adap­tive re­use” projects. It’s at 83 Lit­tle Bridge St. be­hind the Ro­manesque re­vival-style post of­fice on Mill Street (built in the late 1800s and now home to en­gi­neer­ing, law and other small busi­nesses, the old post of­fice has been usurped by a newer, box­like Canada Post build­ing, a prod­uct of the Eye­sore School of De­sign, fur­ther down Mill Street).

A mix of com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial space, Thoburn Mill will in­clude 13 house­hold units once re­build­ing is fin­ished later this sum­mer or fall.

Its res­i­den­tial space is cur­rently classified as apart­ments, but those will be­come con­dos rang­ing from 1,000 to 1,650 square feet and sell­ing in the $210,000 to $350,000 vicin­ity.

“I can walk to so many places,” says Mar­garet Brun­ton who’s rented her two-storey, open-con­cept apart­ment in Thoburn Mill since 2005 and is buy­ing one of the con­dos. “The minute I step out­side in the morn­ing, peo­ple say: ‘Hello, Mar­garet.’ There are young peo­ple around. It’s like a lit­tle com­mu­nity.”

She also praises the town’s nat­u­ral beauty and how se­cure she feels in a place where every­one knows every­one else.

Like oth­ers, Brun­ton’s unit in­cludes a gen­er­ous deck over­look­ing the Mis­sis­sippi and its cas­cad­ing spill­way (that prox­im­ity to the river means that the build­ing’s old, ex­ist­ing tur­bine will be restarted, which should make Thoburn Mill self-suf­fi­cient with green elec­tric­ity).

Brun­ton’s cur­rent home is also atop the river walk­way, a pub­lic area where a ro­man­tic young man ap­par­ently popped the ques­tion to his beloved within days of the snaking walk­way open­ing a cou­ple years ago.

Al­monte ar­chi­tect Peter Mans­field de­signed Brun­ton’s unit and most of the other spa­ces in the Thoburn and Vic­to­ria Woollen mills.

He also planned the heav­ily glassed bar­rel-vault ad­di­tion to Thoburn Mill.

“It’s al­most ar­chae­o­log­i­cal with all its dif­fer­ent sec­tions,” says Mans­field, re­fer­ring to how the mill’s for­mer own­ers added to it dur­ing prof­itable years.

“It was fun fus­ing con­tem­po­rary build­ing ma­te­ri­als into the old ware­house struc­ture,” he adds, re­fer­ring to the glass and steel that de­fine much of the build­ing’s com­mon ar­eas, the mas­sive wood beams travers­ing res­i­den­tial ceil­ings and the old brick walls that de­fine some of the com­mer­cial space.

Along with the Vic­to­ria Woollen and Thoburn mills, the Al­monte Her­itage Re­de­vel­op­ment Group rents apart­ments in smaller her­itage build­ings in down­town Al­monte and has plans for res­i­den­tial lots and other projects around town.

It’s also be­gun work on a larger his­toric build­ing at 65 Mill St. Like other projects, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency ranks high on the list of plan­ning pri­or­i­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to the town’s chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer, Diane Smith­son, the cur­rent pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to grow to about 8,000 by 2026.

Mar­garet Brun­ton in­side her Mill Street condo.

Bruno Sch­lum­berger, The Ottawa Ci­ti­zen

From left, Jo­hannes Hill, pres­i­dent Thoburn Mill Inc, the de­vel­oper of the Thoburn Mill Con­dos with Stephen Brath­waite, vice-pres­i­dent Thoburn Mill Inc.

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