Canada Post's downtown Yellowknife post office on September 21, 2023. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio
The company that owns the main post office building in Yellowknife says renovations will improve public access, save energy and ensure the site better reflects Indigenous culture and history.
The building on Franklin Avenue, which was designated as a heritage site in 2007, has been owned by 6133 NWT Ltd, a partnership between Denendeh Investments and JV Developments, since 2009. Renovations to the exterior, including the removal of raised planters, began last week.
In a Monday press release, Darrell Beaulieu, president of Denendeh Investments, which is owned by all the NWT Dene First Nations, said modernization to the building’s “architectural elements and mechanical and electrical systems” was needed. He said improvements will include new barrier free building entrances, an access ramp, an elevator to the second floor and “exterior artistic design representing the culture of the Dene and their descendants.”
Beaulieu said the company has been working with the City of Yellowknife, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and Canada Post in the planning and implementation of these changes.
He said funding support is being provided through the NWT’s Greenhouse Gas Grant Program and the federal Northern REACHE program, which both aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The NWT government announced in June $300,000 in funding was being awarded to revitalize the post office, including retrofitting the building with a wood pellet boiler.
The building is also set to get a new name which reflects that it is located on Chief Drygeese Territory. Beaulieu said “Akaitcho Post” was recommended during a workshop with Yellowknives Dene First Nation Elders.
“It’s one building that doesn’t have a name. Everybody in Yellowknife just calls it ‘the post office building,'” he told Cabin Radio. “So the team decided that we should be engaging with Yellowknives Dene First Nation Elders to see what an appropriate name could be.”
The release said a public event and naming ceremony is being planned for the spring of 2024.
The removal of planters outside the building, which were wide enough to act as a seating area and served as a gathering-place for residents from all walks of life, including people experiencing homelessness, raised mixed reaction from some residents last week. For some, it reignited discussion from when the city removed benches from outside the same building in 2014.
Beaulieu said the planters, which were installed a little over a decade ago, were recently removed to allow for exterior repairs and will not be replaced. He said rot and mould were discovered in the wall behind the planters.
“We want to ensure the safety and integrity of the heritage building remains,” he said. “It doesn’t hold back from people – whether you’re a street person or a resident or an executive or a minister – from utilizing the space. And we continue to encourage those who use the building and property to respect each other and maintain the site as a safe place for everybody.”
Sandra McDaniel, vice-president of JV Developments, told Cabin Radio last week that the planters were being removed and would not be replaced as it was “felt that not having people just sort-of hanging around there might be better.” She said the changes were made at the request of Canada Post.
McDaniel on Monday clarified that several groups were involved in discussions about improvements to the exterior of the building. She said she was personally concerned about upkeep and keeping the area clean as it had “became a dumping ground” for garbage.
City councillor Ryan Fequet, who published a post on Facebook about the renovations to the Post Office building on Friday, wrote that for those with concerns about public seating in Yellowknife, Somba K’e Park “is intended to provide a space for everyone to relax, be a little closer to nature, and has a public bathroom and a variety of seating types and locations.” He said anyone with concerns can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.