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Post office building almost a heritage site

Peter Crnogorac
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 17/06) - City council members are one vote away from making the Yellowknife post office building a heritage spot.

At their meeting on Tuesday, all five councillors present voted to have the federally-owned building at 4902 Franklin Ave. designated as a local heritage site.

Before the vote, there was a public hearing open for anyone who wanted to have a say on whether the site should be designated, but no one came forward.

To become a Yellowknife heritage site, the motion must pass one more reading at the next council meeting.

The building opened its doors on April 30, 1959. Back then, it housed the post office and the courthouse, with the latter moving to its present day location in the 1970s.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem explained to the Yellowknifer in an interview that the city tried a few years ago to make the building a National Heritage Site, but was denied.

The city is still pursuing the federal route, and has sent several letters to the federal government expressing interest, according to Van Tighem.

When council passed the second reading Tuesday night, Coun. Mark Heyck chose to make a statement.

"I'd like to acknowledge former Coun. Kevin O'Reilly who got the ball rolling on this," he said.

The heritage site designation can be seen as honouring the city's beginnings, and, in this case, it also is a strategic move.

Earlier this year, the federal government was thinking of getting rid of the building when the Canada Post lease reached its expiration date in March.

However, a new lease was signed soon after.

As a Yellowknife heritage site, changes to the building must first be approved by a city committee.

This in itself does not protect it from a federal decision. Van Tighem said the second step is toward federal heritage designation, which would give the measure much more staying power.