Kays Brothers Building / Welsh and Owen Building, 45 Queen Street Charlottetown, PEI – SAVED BY $6.5 MILLION REHABILITATION

The verdict on the future of the historic Kays Bros. Building awaited the outcome of an engineering report. Delisting and demolishing it for a new hotel would have left a large hole in this important historic streetscape. Thanks to APM Construction and financial support from the province, the historic building has been saved. Along the way, important questions about how a listed heritage property was allowed to deteriorate were raised by City Council. 

Why it matters
Constructed in 1872 for prominent politicians, merchants and shipbuilders Lemuel Owen and William Welsh, the Italianate Commercial-style building on Queen Street (later known as the Kayes Bros. Building) played an important role in the commercial history of Charlottetown. The large, four-storey structure with decorative brickwork, round-arched windows and row of three storefronts with large plate glass, wooden piers, and signband, it is one of the most impressive along the historic streetscape.
Over the years it was home to prominent newspapers and important local retail and commercial activities, but it is best known for its wholesale grocery businesses (J.T. Peardon’s, R.E. Mutch and Company and later the Kays Brothers). It suffered three fires that have damaged the interior, but left the exterior walls intact.

In 1962, the Kays Brothers purchased the building where they ran their wholesale company until 2009. The opening of Confederation Bridge, which made it easier for customers to shop out of province, was cited as the primary reason for its closure. It was purchased by the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation (CADC) that year for $750,000 and has been vacant ever since.

The building is included as a Designated Heritage Resource as per Appendix A in the City of Charlottetown Zoning and Development Bylaw.  

Why it’s endangered
A new owner, island businessman Danny Murphy, wants to develop a $15-million hotel on the site that would require the delisting and demolition of the historic building. His engineering report, that states the building is structurally unsound, contradicts a report by J.M. Griffin Engineering Inc. prepared a year ago for P.E.I. developer Tim Banks. Based on that report, Banks had planned a hotel redevelopment that would incorporate part of the historic building.

Where things stand
APM Construction purchased the building in 2012 and thanks to the tenacity of its CEO, Tim Banks, it has undergone an intensive $6.5 million rehabilitation. The project included the restoration of the brick façade with new custom-made windows built to heritage standards along with extensive structural work inside. The first floor is retail with the top three floors reserved for office space. The project received a $1 million provincial heritage grant. The building's refurbishment contributes significantly to the revitalization of Charlottetown's downtown. 

Read more about "Charlottetown's Charmer" in HERITAGE magazine.