Nov 7, 2014

Revitalizing Downtown: 2nd Street

In early 2012 I started documenting Medicine Hat, Alberta for what eventually became my Around the Hat photo series. Little did I know at the time, but Medicine Hat was on the cusp of some big changes - especially downtown. 

2nd Street has recently become the focal point of what a revitalized downtown could look like after the street received major upgrades in 2013. Subsequently, this has spurred on new developments and injected some much needed energy into the Hat's core.

My original interest in many of these locations along 2nd Street came from the fact that they were abandoned - which was the initial focus of my series. I ended up witnessing a lot of the transition that followed, and potentially even motivated some of it with collaborations like Thinking Hat. Our exhibition opened in the Beveridge Block before it was sold, and later went on display in the windows of the old Centennial Stationers for Spectrum this year. 

It's been exciting to see 2nd Street get livelier, and the cosmetic updates have made it an attractive place to be. Businesses like Inspire Cafe, Station Coffee, and the Monarch Theatre have always been standouts for me, but recently the redevelopment of the Beveridge Block, the former Centennial Stationers, and the Sweet Caporal wall building have all attracted a lot of curious eyes as well. There's definitely optimism in the air. 

This summer the old siding from the Centennial Stationers was removed and revealed an old Marshall's Book Store sign and later a King Edward Billiard and Bowling Alley painted sign. The interior of the former Pingle's / Sweet Caporal building was also gutted, and in addition to renovations inside the Beveridge Block, I noticed the old horse mural that covered the side of the building was painted over.

In my view, all of these changes have been for the best. Purists sometimes argue that all of the history should be maintained as is, but the truth is that a lot of Medicine Hat's history was already lost years ago to neglect, poor maintenance, or years of previous alterations. These new developments all seem to be preserving a historic aesthetic (whether they're uncovering it or trying to recreate it) but more importantly, they're focused on making the buildings and street relevant again. The change is finally happening at an accelerated rate along 2nd Street, and frankly, it feels like it couldn't have come soon enough. 

Sweet Caporal and Centennial Stationers buildings under renovation.

Marshall's sign revealed. It was removed shortly after.

Last of the old siding removed from Centennial Stationers to reveal brickwork.

Check out my shoot of the abandoned interior of the Beveridge here.

The mural being painted over on the Beveridge Block.

The gutted interior of the Sweet Caporal building. Click for the before.

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