The New Petrie Building

Guelph, ON

2018 Ecclesiastical Insurance Cornerstone Award (Transformative Projects)

Before and After (after photo: Courtesy of Hans Zegerius)

The unique ornamented metal façade of the Petrie Building has been an iconic presence in downtown Guelph since 1882. One of three remaining Canadian buildings constructed prior to 1890 with full metal façades, it is the only remaining complete example of a building ornamented by machine-stamped zinc plates. For almost 100 years, the metal façade and upper floors suffered from severe neglect, and in 2014 the building was featured on the National Trust’s Top 10 Endangered Places List.

When Tyrcathlen Partners Ltd. purchased the iconic building in 2015, many attempts were made to find a workable plan to revitalize the building, but the restrictions of its dimensions and accommodating modern fire safety and exit requirements made this difficult. Tyrcathlen Partners’ solution was to merge the building with the adjoining 1840’s limestone building to the north, which it acquired in March 2015. Over the past three years the two properties were seamlessly merged into a single building serviced by front and rear exits, modern fire safety systems, new mechanical, electrical and utility feeds, and an elevator making over 95% of the building fully accessible.

The original 1882 galvanized sheet steel and stamped zinc ornamented façade presented a real conservation challenge, as the façade had seen no maintenance for at least 60 years. Students from Willowbank School worked alongside local tradespeople and Empire Restoration (now Ultimate Construction) to undertake the work. The restoration project sought advice from heritage consultants at Allan Killin Architect, and Tacoma Engineers were the structural engineers for the project.

In 2017, Tyrcathlen Partners and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario entered into a unique joint venture and launched the “Top-Off-the-Petrie” community crowdfunding campaign during the National Trust’s 2017 THIS PLACE MATTERS crowdfunding competition. The partnership was greatly assisted when the project won the Central Region small projects category.

Today, the risks taken on by the Tyrcathlen Partners and their efforts to engage with a broad range of paratners have paid off, as the building is active seven days-a-week from early morning through the evening. It is now a favourite for local photographers both day and night, and houses a small craft brewery & ale house, an advertising agency, a two storey bridal boutique, a software company, a Mediterranean restaurant and a commercial office.

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