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124-year-old building comes down for site cleanup

Sep 27 2012
The Instrumentation Building at Pembroke and Government streets comes down Wednesday to allow for remediation of the contaminated soil beneath the structure. 

The Instrumentation Building at Pembroke and Government streets comes down Wednesday to allow for remediation of the contaminated soil beneath the structure.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

Excavators knocked down a chunk of Victoria's 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.

"We've remediated a lot already, but there's 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 building was previously owned by 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 found to be incorrect, said Steve Barber, Victoria's senior heritage planner.

"The building is not as old as was originally thought," Barber said. The deterioration was so great that it couldn't 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 said his feelings were bittersweet.

"You see a heritage building, one that reflects the old industry in Victoria coming down," Fortin said 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., Olynyk said. It's listed as a "high profile" contaminated site by the B.C. Ministry of Environment. One of the contaminants is polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which leached from buried capacitors.

Once the site is cleaned up, the property will be sold, Olynyk said.

The building is listed on the city's heritage register but it doesn't have any formal protection under the designation.

Two other buildings on the site, at 502 Pembroke St. and at 2110 Store St., will be restored and remediated.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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