Lethbridge Main Street Project provides emergency help to prevent collapse of two historic Chinatown buildings

Posted on : Tuesday, July 16, 2013


The Lethbridge Main Street Project is providing emergency help to try to save a pair of historic Chinatown buildings which are being closed for public safety due to serious structural problems.

The Bow On Tong building downtown at 316-2 Ave. S and the Manie Opera Society Building next door at 318-2 Ave. S. are being closed to public access as a result of a recent structural analysis which found both buildings are becoming increasingly unstable. 

“We are working with the lone resident of the Bow On Tong building to ensure his safety and to provide short-term structural reinforcement to prevent either of these buildings from collapsing. They are important to the downtown because they represent an important aspect of Lethbridge history as well as the history of our local Chinese community,” said Ted Stilson, Executive Director of the Lethbridge Main Street Project.  “Our ultimate goal is to ensure these buildings are safe for the resident to return and to retain these valuable downtown heritage resources.”

The resident has lived in the Bow On Tong building his entire life and is receiving help to find a temporary place to live close by. A local dance club has been using the Manie building to conduct classes and rehearsals.

A neighbouring property owner contacted Stilson in early May this year to advise that a large vertical crack in the west-facing wall of the two-storey Bow On Tong building appeared to be growing and that the back part of the building appeared to be sagging. A subsequent architectural and structural engineering assessment determined that for health and safety reasons, both buildings were no longer safe to live in. That assessment also concluded that if action is taken immediately, the buildings could be stabilized by this September.

The owners are voluntarily closing the buildings on the advice of the architect and the engineers. City of Lethbridge Inspection Services are aware of the situation and are monitoring it to ensure public safety.

Local architect Robert Hirano, the consulting architect to the Main Street Project, is currently devising a stabilization and conservation plan. The Main Street Project has some limited resources that are being applied to the current, short-term stabilization effort for these buildings. Those resources include $35,500 in provincial funding as well as a further $50,000 in uncommitted municipal Main Street funding within the 2014 Heart of Our City budget.

For more information please contact Ted Stilson, Executive Director of the Lethbridge Main Street Porject at 403-327-9002 or George Kuhl, Downtown Revitalization Manager at 403-320-3926.