by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent
Morinville Councillors will make the final decision on the fate of Perras Place—a building that has been standing in Morinville for more than one hundred years—when they vote on the matter during budget deliberations this fall.
Perras Place is in the lot immediately east of Morinville’s Town Office and currently houses the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce and Morinville Visitor Information Centre (VIC).
“In 2016, [the Town] did an assessment of our buildings,” explained Dave Schaefer, Morinville’s Director of Corporate Operations in an interview. “We had an engineering study done, and it showed Perras Place was nearing the end of its useful life.”
Ultimately, however, the fate of the building rests in the hands of Council who will vote on whether or not to approve the proposed demolition project in the 2017 Capital Budget.
“If the dollars are approved, it will go forward for demolition,” said Schaefer.
The Chamber of Commerce, who currently rents the building from the Town (and who has a contract with Morinville to run the VIC on behalf of the municipality) will not have to look very far for a new space.
According to Schaefer, the Town is working with the Chamber on a new location and will be developing the group a new space to rent on the main floor of St. Germain Place (the Town Office), just outside the Morinville Public Library, if required.
Though it was only recently revealed the building is slated to be demolished, the Town said discussions have been ongoing with the Chamber since this spring.
“We tried to give them lots and lots of notice,” emphasized Schaefer, who also remarked that, structurally, the building is at a point where it will cost more money to make additional repairs than what the building is worth.
Noting the extensive amount of renovations already completed on the building, Schaefer also indicated, from a Provincial stand-point; Perras Place no longer meets criteria required to be deemed historically valuable.
“If it is demolished,” said the Corporate Operations Director, “we’re looking at initially repurposing the site as a green space.”
At the end of the day, though, Schaefer said what happens on that lot (should Perras Place be demolished) will depend largely on the growth of the Town, and whether that growth necessitates the requirement for more space at St. Germain Place. As the community expands, adding an addition to the town office is a possibility, he said.
For now, however, should the lot be turned into a park, Schaefer believes it will be a great connection to St. Jean Baptiste Park across the street and to the VIC next door.
Keeping up with that positive sentiment, Simon Boersma, the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce President, said in a Sept. 27 interview that this is indeed a good move for his organization.
“What I think is important is that we work together with the Town…to continue to get a strong connection established with the community. Going through those front doors [at the Town office] and seeing us first, it’ll really change it up. This will bring some additional strength to the Chamber and to the VIC.”
Folks already go to the library looking for Visitor Information all the time, so it makes sense for the Chamber and VIC to be right in St. Germain Place,” he said.
“Our Board is strong, and we’ll have no problem carving out our own path,” remarked Boersma, addressing the potential challenge of maintaining a distinct identity for the Chamber. Another possible challenge will be working in much less space; “it will be an open concept,” admits the Chamber President, who said he believes the new space will likely be more of a welcoming atmosphere for visitors and members.
As an obvious benefit, Boersma also talked money. He described the rent at Perras Place as “hefty, but said, in the new spot, the cost should be more manageable.
“If everything goes as planned, we could be in our new location as early as November 15, with a grand opening on December 1.”
The Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce currently serves 176 members from Morinville and Sturgeon County. The organization’s mandate is to promote businesses and advocate on its members’ behalf to municipal, provincial, and federal governments.