LETHBRIDGE – The difference is, by any measure, absolutely remarkable.
The Galt Manor that one year ago was overrun by squatters, addicts and hoarders; the Galt Manor that was deemed unfit for human habitation - where buckets and buckets of needles were gathered, where human waste and garbage were callously stewn about - the Galt Manor that Lethbridge Police attended on a shockingly regular basis, has been completed renovated.
So much so, that it’s nearly unrecognizable both inside and outside.
Lethbridge New NOW first reported on the chronic problems occurring at the apartment building on 7 St. S. in late November, 2017. At that time, LNN spoke with building owner Doug Cutler, who felt such desperation over his inability to gain control of the constant stream of addicts and criminals in and out of the building, he didn’t know what to do.
The building was condemned by Alberta Health Inspectors and all tenants ordered to leave.
It was was eventually sold to Adam Morstad and his father last April, and the two, along with crews of tradespeople gutted the building.
“It was pretty shocking when we first bought it," he explained. "You really had to have some vision to see through the mess that was actually in here to see what it could become. But at the same time it had a lot of charm and character, so there was definitely lots of areas for improvement."
Morstad says there was no insulation in the walls originally (there is, now), all windows were replaced, new plumbing and heating systems were installed, new kitchens and bathrooms were created, doors and door frames were installed, the old decorative fireplaces removed, new appliances brought in, and everything got new coat of paint.
The only original features that remain are the hardwood floors that were refinished, the staircases, the brick flooring in the building entrance and some of the wainscotting along the common area walls.
"For the most part, everything had to go," said Morstad.
Workers from SAM’s house (Southern Alcare Manor), a facility that provides services to adults addicted to drugs, alcohol and gambling, were employed as casual labourers when needed. One of those workers even ended up getting a full-time job working on Phase 2 of the ATB Centre.
“They were all good guys. Just sometimes you fall on tough times and it’s good to help them out that way.”
Morstad says he and his father worked on a couple of other homes in the Lethbridge area and felt they could tackle the project together. However, there were a lot of unanticipated costs, and they ended up spending more than originally planned, although the exact dollar figure isn't something they want to disclose.
"So basically, we're just finishing our work. I'm working on tiling the backsplashes. There's some minor plumbing things that need to be finished. I have to finish the baseboards and stain some of the floors."
The basement, which used to be a cesspool of human waste and garbage, is also nearing completion with a new, shared laundry area and storage rooms for each suite.
Morstad is proud of everything he and his father have accomplished over the last eight months.
"Some of those earlier days it was all just ripping and tearing and 'is this ever going to end?' But it's been fun. Learned some things along the way."
One of the major issues prior to the renovation was building security and building access. There are now security cameras installed both in the front and back entrances, and a new intercom system so that visitors need to know a tenant's security code and tenants themselves have their own keys and codes to gain entry.
The duo will also be more discerning about the tenants they allow in to rent the suites.
As for the outside of the building, in the springtime, the hedges will be cut down and gardens created in their space. The gardens will be available for tenants to grow their own food. And if tenants aren't interested or able, they're hoping to still plant food gardens and donate what is grown to local food banks.
Adam and his father believe the building will be complete by mid- December and are planning on holding an open house to show off the drastic changes to the community.
They're also hoping a member of city council or even Mayor Chris Spearman will stop by. Those attending the open house will be encouraged to bring an item for donation to the food bank.
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