Excavators knocked down a chunk of Victorias history on Wednesday, but it will take five years to ready the site for redevelopment.
The Instrumentation Building at 512 Pembroke St., built in 1888 and owned by B.C. Hydro, is sitting on contaminated soil.
Weve remediated a lot already but theres still a lot more to do, said B.C. Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk on Wednesday as he watched the demolition.
In order for us to remediate properly, we have to get into the soil beneath the building.
The buildings previous owners were the Victoria Gas and B.C. Electric companies.
Earlier tours by city staff and B.C. Hydro showed the building to be seismically unsound and beyond repair. The building was first thought to have been built in 1862 but that date was later found to be incorrect, said Steve Barber, Victorias senior heritage planner.
The building is not as old as was originally thought, he said. Many other downtown buildings were constructed at that time, said Barber.
The deterioration is so great that it cant be salvaged, he said.
A City of Victoria staff report, issued in March, recommended demolition, calling it the only practical option to ensure that B.C. Hydro is able to fully remediate this site due to the concentration, distribution and depth of contaminated soils directly below and surrounding the building.
Victoria mayor Dean Fortin watched the demolition take place and his feelings were bittersweet.
You see a heritage building, one that reflects the old industry in Victoria coming down, said Fortin later.
You have to recognize there was no way to clean up the contaminated soil that lay beneath the building without it coming down. It allows that area to add to the economic life of the city once more.
This is one of the most contaminated sites in B.C., said Olynyk. Its listed as high profile contaminated site by the B.C. Ministry of Environment. One of the contaminants is PCBs, which leached from the burial of PCB-filled capacitors.
Once the site is cleaned up, the property will be sold, said Olynyk.
The building is listed on the citys heritage register but it doesnt have any formal protection under the designation. Two other buildings on the site, at 502 Pembroke St. and at 2110 Wharf St., will be restored and remediated.
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