Yesterday I wrote about my favourite underused space in Regina – the Travellers’ Building. For a little bit of the history and current state, check here.
Today I want to switch the focus on to what is possible. The building has been boarded up for about 10 years, which means that it is definitely time to bring it back to life. With that in mind I decided to create my own hypothetical future for the Travellers’.
With respect to commercial properties, the Travellers’ is unique because it was originally built to accommodate multiple commercial uses – a car dealership and two smaller shops on the main level, offices and the ballroom on the upper floor. This is something that isn’t common today, but it makes it ideal for repurposing… and quite frankly, makes it a more interesting space.
For the purpose of creating my hypothetical future, I thought I’d try my hand at having spaces fill the original layout – two smaller shops and one large space on the main floor. I also thought it would be interesting to have businesses that were reminiscent of previous tenants, and would fill current gaps along the street. Starting at street level, a cafe or sandwich shop would be great – and maybe it could even be named after one of the first restaurants there: Ed’s Lunch, or Sadoca. The other small shop space could house a print and design studio. “Ambrosi Brothers” was a tenant at one time, and though I am not sure if this is a relation to Ambrosi printers on Montreal Street, it would still be an interesting use to incorporate. A gallery space on the main floor would also be an interesting addition.
Then there is the upper floor – while not directly linked to the visual elements of the building I think that development on the second floor could really make this place special. The Arcadia Ballroom would be an ideal rehearsal and performance space. It could be rented out for dance and theatre classes and rehearsals, while small performances could also be accommodated. A group in Montreal called Slow Dance Night hosts events for people of all ages to come and enjoy an evening of…well, slow dancing, complete with the use of dance cards. Leading up to such events you could offer ballroom dance primers for those interested. These uses would be a great use of Regina’s last horsehair floor ballroom.
The office space on the second floor originally rented by traveling salesmen could be revitalized with a more current vision as well. I’d love to see something similar to the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto. They offer monthly office rental spaces and hot desk packages for small businesses and non-profits requiring affordable semi-permanent office space, a mailbox, high-speed internet, access to boardroom facilities, and opportunities to network with other groups. The existing offices could be private for a higher cost, or shared between individuals only needing a desk for a few hours or days.
This is just one hypothetical future – there are a lot of options on how to put every space in this building to good use – and uses that would help to fill in some gaps along Broad Street which is currently consists of restaurants, hotels, and a few specialty shops. Re-visioning this space would also increase pedestrian traffic during all hours of the day – in my example: office goers and lunch space 9-5pm, with dance and theatre events and gallery shows in the evenings.
The Travellers’ Building is an interesting space in Regina’s downtown, and although the building was designated a Municipal Heritage Property in 2001, it does not make it immune – and really, the designation only applies to the exterior of the building. A source that I spoke to at the City said that “City Council has never formally considered an objection [to a Municipal Heritage designation] and has never passed a bylaw to repeal a Municipal Heritage Property designation”. But this is not to say that it can’t happen – buildings deteriorate over time if they are not upkept and put to use.
We’ve seen other buildings removed and replaced with parking lots because they were seen as an “eyesore” and it really would be a shame for a place with such potential to meet the same fate. Hopefully by sharing some ideas about hypothetical futures we can start a dialogue and expand the plausible options available for the building.