Facelift for old Festival Square
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Feb 26, 2007  |  Vote 0    0

Facelift for old Festival Square

Stratford Gazette

A prominent core building is the latest in the downtown to undergo a dramatic makeover.

Construction is currently under way at the historic Festival Square building, revamping both the interior and exterior of the retail and professional building.

The building's owners hope by the end of the year they will have brought life back to the old property.

"We're quite excited about this," said Nick Giannakopoulos, who, along with partner Michael Zentil, has been working to restore the building since June.

Exterior improvements include new lighting, which has recently been installed along Downie and Erie streets. A fresh coat of paint will soon be applied and existing window frames will be refurbished.

"We're being sympathetic to its historical value in restoring it to its former grandeur," he said, in a recent interview.

But perhaps the most dramatic change will be the reconstruction of the building's south end facing the Erie Street parking lot.

Festival Square was originally three buildings. Because another building was once attached to the south wall, interior brick was used.

In recent years, it's been crumbling, making the building's south side an eyesore in such a high-traffic area.

Windows will be installed along the second floor and a new storefront - similar to the one on Erie Street - will be constructed.

Inside the building, work is underway on multiple projects. The building's upper floors have been renovated to accommodate more professional offices, including one for the Perth District Health Unit's chronic disease prevention unit and sexual health clinic, which moved into the building last month. One vacant space on the building's lower floor is also being renovated.

"We're hoping to have the 44,000-square-foot building filled with tenants within two years. Currently, including "promising" new prospective tenants who have expressed interest in moving in, the building is about 70 per cent full, said Giannakopoulos.

On the building's main floor, a new café is under construction, expected to be completed in March. A large gazebo and seating area will be established in the middle of the main floor and once reclaimed brick walls are completed, owners hope to give the building a different feel.

"It will almost be like an outdoor market," he said. "We're using materials sympathetic to the building's history."

However, they're adding some modern twists, including efficient lighting running on timers to help conserve energy and keep costs down.

New doorways have also been installed around interior entrances to the stores, taking the building back to its historical roots.

"The interior is being designed in a 1890s theme."

Originally the owners considered constructing condominiums on the third floor. After considering the costs, Giannakopoulos said such a project wasn't feasible in the market.

"It didn't make economic sense," he explained, noting the units would have been listed for $250,000.

"Who is going to buy a condominium for that price and not have parking? That was really the nail in the coffin."

Federal funding and municipal interest-free loans are also being evaluated right now, but if they don't receive the funding, he said the project would continue to move forward.

"We're not basing our budget on that," he said.

Giannakopoulos, a former city councillor who sat on the local architectural conservation advisory committee for 17 years, hopes his experience will pay off.

"I'd hope I have a pretty good idea of what will complement the building, complement the downtown core and complement the community."

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