Stephen Taweel believes downtown Charlottetown is going to be one hot real estate ticket over the next 20 to 30 years.
With that in mind, Taweel purchased a dilapidated apartment building (it had five apartments) in July 2011 and spent the next 12 to 14 months fixing it up.
Taweel said the building, which was first erected in 1901, will last another 100 to 200 years.
He was one of the lucky recipients of the City of Charlottetown's annual heritage awards during a ceremony at City Hall on Tuesday.
"It was in pretty bad shape,'' Taweel said of his new home at 37 Hillsborough Street. "It became a challenge right from the get-go and on a project like this once you get started you can't stop. Wow! What a challenge.''
The heritage awards were presented to seven individuals and organizations in the community who have worked hard to preserve and celebrate municipal heritage.
Taweel wouldn't say how much he spent fixing the place up, just that it was "a big number''. However, the experience was priceless.
"The experience gained from that is something you can't get from education. You can't get it from a university or working for somebody else. You're working every day from 7 o'clock to 5 o'clock — every day, with two carpenters full time.''
The gutted the home-to-be right down to the studs, even to the roof rafters. Eventually, they removed the roof boards.
Taweel said he could have easily renovated the building and put apartments back in "but that would have changed the area''. Instead, he wanted to up the ante and add to the neighbourhood. It helped that the City of Charlottetown is developing a master plan for the loing-term viability of its downtown.
"Knowing the vision of Charlottetown for the next 20 to 30 years . . . I got in at the right time. I think the value of homes in Charlottetown has to go up in order for people to buy real estate and do what they want to do. It's going to become a place where you want to live in the downtown.''
Coun. Rob Lantz, chair of the heritage committee, said it was a banner year for the department. Normally armed with a budget of around $35,000 to $40,000, it handed out $75,000 this past year - money given out as grants under the city's heritage incentive program to offset additional costs which are incurred to own, preserve and restore heritage properties.
To be clear, Taweel's home is not a heritage property and he didn't receive any money.
Lantz says there is renewed interest in downtown living.
"My wife is in real estate and she tells me that a lot of people are looking at homes in downtown Charlottetown, (and that) property values are increasing,'' Lantz said. "There's a demand there. People like to live downtown.''
List heritage awards
The following individuals and organizations received a heritage award by the City of Charlottetown on Tuesday:
- Graham Robinson and Darlene MacMillan for the work they did at 12 Kent Street, a house that was built around 1900;
- Greta Duncan for restoring the 1859 house at 271 Kent Street;
- Stephen Taweel for completing an extensive refurbishment of the 1901 house at 37 Hillsborough Street;
- Mike O'Grady and Holland College for installing a replica of a sundial which was presented in 1773 by Capt. Samuel Holland, who was appointed to survey the Island.
- Mike Redmond and Murphy's Community Centre for bringing together a group of people to share stories about the area that were recorded to preserve the history;
- The Guardian newspaper for its special section and special hardcover book marking 125 years of the paper;
- Charles (Charley) McMillan, Regis Duffy and the board of Saint Dunstan's University for the addition of a sculpture of Bishop Angus MacEachern.
The city also handed out the first annual Catherine G. Hennessey Heritage Award on Tuesday. It was awarded posthumously to Frank Zakem who, as mayor in the 1970s, made a lasting impact on the heritage file. The Hennessey award will recognize valuable contributions within the entire city, not just the downtown area.