When Tyrcathlen Partners developer Kirk Roberts bought the landmark downtown Petrie Building in 2015, he knew very well that a heritage restoration would bring a unique set of challenges. It’s not his first rodeo (The Boarding House Arts and the Granary Building) and he clearly sees both personal, cultural and financial benefit in the restoration of unique heritage structures. Roberts sees potential where others see dust and mud. According to Roberts, “risk is part of the equation” in downtown, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. But for each challenge (such as easements, building codes, importing specialty products from France), there are also moments of discovery and accomplishment. For example, discovering the original 1909 signature of the wallpaper hanger on the wall of the third floor, or finding the opening of the original domed entrance to the main floor.
The Petrie Building is singularly unique. It was built in 1882 by Alexander Bain Petrie, a pharmacist and inventor. The designation of the building under the Ontario Heritage Act speaks to its rare and rich history: the galvanized iron facade, the Petrie family, the ceiling heights, the Masonic “secret” rooms, and more.
As the Petrie Building transformation get ready to be revealed in the coming months, Roberts was eager to show off the incredible architectural treasures found inside, and to promote how this building plays a key role in the identity of downtown Guelph. He recently hosted a tour for members of Council and economic development and tourism staff as part of the lead up to Doors Open on Founders Weekend April 21 to 23, 2017.
During the tour, the brothers of Brothers Brewing Co. were busy building fixtures and furnishings using architectural salvage from the building. Several years ago, while looking across the street at the derelict Petrie facade from a table at Van Gogh’s, they began to dream about opening a business in the very space they now occupy. They refer to downtown Guelph as “our land of opportunity.” Today, the brewing vats are installed and the bar — including a foot rail made from the old gas pipes — is almost ready for patrons to enjoy a pint.
Enjoy the tour …