June 27th, 2019

Architectural firm sees long Medicine Hat future

By Collin Gallant on November 16, 2016.


FWBA Architects officially opened its stylish downtown branch office in Medicine Hat on Tuesday, saying its interest in the area is longstanding and will continue.

“We really see a bright future in Medicine Hat, and this office says that we really believe in Medicine Hat,” said Christopher Babitz, a partner with the firm formerly known at Ferrari Westwood Babitz.

Based in Lethbridge, the company bills itself as the longest continuously operating architecture firm in Western Canada, having first opened in 1929.

For the last decade the company has secured an increasing amount of work in Medicine Hat, most recently on school projects and redeveloping the city’s flood damaged seniors’ centre.

The office opened in the late summer working closely with local firm Baird & Bergum. Four local FWBA employees will work out of the office at 623 Third St. — the former Hutchings & Sharp Clothing outlet, which has been the focus major renovations.

Speaking beneath the exposed original tin ceiling and among new modern furnishings, partner David Cocks said the surroundings suit the business well.

“We’re interested in leaving a legacy of good-quality facilities in southern Alberta,” said Cocks, a Medicine Hat native who splits his time between the local branch and head office in Lethbridge. Another office is located in Calgary.

The amount of work and activity in the southeast of Alberta led the company to seek permanent office space, said Cocks.

Landlord Aaron Burghardt said the main floor space, as well as two lofts above, maintains much of the character, including flooring, ceiling and other features while modernizing the building.

Mayor Ted Clugston said the storefront is another example of proof that confidence in the city centre is growing, in part because of development grants and infrastructure work begun by City Hall.

“Council took a risk, (the developer) Burghardt took a risk and now you’re here taking a risk,” he told the principles in the business.

Babitz said that while all business ventures are a risk, he sees the company’s setting up in Medicine Hat as one that will pay dividends.

FWBA is currently overseeing four school construction projects for three area boards, including modernization at Medicine Hat High, new construction of public and Catholic elementary schools and the new school building in Schular.

In terms of municipal buildings, FWBA last year won the contract to design a renovated and expanded Veiner Centre. It previously designed the new terminal building at the Medicine Hat Regional Airport Terminal as well as the Medicine Hat police station expansion.

Clugston joked that FWBA architects had spent as much time at council as anyone over the past nine years.

For the past several years, FWBA has worked increasingly with mainstay Medicine Hat architectural firm Baird & Bergum.

FWBA is now handling all former clients after those local architects retired and wound up the firm this fall.

MLA Bob Wanner who attended the opening said the sense of continuity is encouraging, as is the company’s decision to locate in the city’s centre.

“This is the soul of the city, right down here,” he said, adding that public building projects have provided jobs and first-class facilities.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes remarked that during his time as infrastructure critic during the last term, he learned the importance of top-quality work and value for public dollars.

“It’s great to see a connection to Medicine Hat and southern Alberta,” he said.

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