Residents of Yellowknife took one last look at the Northern Frontiers Visitors Centre on Wednesday as crews demolished the abandoned building.
The old tourist information hub, opposite the territorial legislature, has sat empty since it was vacated in 2017 over structural issues. Work to strip out the interior took place over the past week, and demolition began in earnest on Tuesday.
“It was always an adventure when I was a kid,” said one resident reminiscing as they watched the work take place.
Everything should be completely cleaned up by May 16, the territorial government said. The site is currently fenced off to prevent unauthorized access.
Wally Schumann, the NWT’s previous infrastructure minister, said last year the work would cost up to $600,000. Ace Enterprises won the demolition contract in December with a bid of $225,460.
Schumann argued at the time the demolition fee was small compared to the estimated cost of salvaging still-undamaged portions of the building, which he said would cost $2.7 million – in addition to nearly $650,000 already assigned to repairs, monitoring, and design costs.
Demolition of the building had an NWT government-imposed deadline of May 31.
What will happen to the site after the building is removed has yet to be determined.
“Work is ongoing to determine future use of this important property,” said the territorial government in a statement on Tuesday.
There remains no public plan to create a new information centre for tourists in Yellowknife. A temporary centre exists on the lower level of City Hall, though the pandemic means the city’s tourism industry is effectively closed for the time being.
Last fall, a report commissioned by the City of Yellowknife recommended relocating a future information centre downtown to generate more foot traffic for surrounding businesses and attractions.
The report analyzed cellphone location data for the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre for the four years leading up to its closure. Authors of the report said the majority of people went straight from their hotels to the centre and back again, without passing through Yellowknife’s downtown.
Sarah Pruys contributed reporting.