Gananoques serves as a place for some hydroelectric generating facilities and nine power plants and they all have been snapped up by Energy Ottawa.
Energy Ottawa purchased the industrial buildings at 5 King St. in Gananoque from Fortis Energy last month at an undisclosed price. The Gananoque facilities were part of a package deal that included hydro generating facilities at Rideau Falls, Jones Falls, Kingston Mills and Brewers Mills in Kingston and Seeley’s Bay. The deal also included four hydro-generating plants in upstate New York.
The properties in Gananoque are deeply rooted in the town’s industrial past. They were were once owned by Gananoque Light and Power, which opened in 1885, becoming one of the first power-generation companies in North America. Gananoque Light and Power fed an industrial boom at the turn of the century that saw 49 factories operating in Gananoque, earning it the nickname of “Little Birmingham.”
The majestic stone buildings have fallen into disrepair and are an eyesore in a part of Gananoque that it is undergoing renewal with the neighbouring Gananoque Brewing Company and Social Pig Cafe, and the Riverstone condominium developments not far away.
Franz Kropp, director of generation for Energy Ottawa, said the deal with Fortis closed only on July 17, so his company has yet to develop any plans for the Gananoque property.
While conceding that the buildings’ future is not a top priority for the company now, Kropp said Energy Ottawa would look at the “potential and opportunities” for the Gananoque properties.
“We realize that they are there; we realize that there is some significance to the buildings and that they matter,” he said.
Energy Ottawa is a sister company to Ottawa Hydro, which is the municipally owned power company in the nation’s capitial. Both companies are wings of Hydro Ottawa Holdings Inc., which is owned by the city.
Kropp said Energy Ottawa is well accustomed to dealing with historic buildings and is sensitive to their history and preservation.
He said he has had a chance to tour 5 King Street, which really has some “architectural charm.”
“The beauty of the buildings from that era is that they all have their own individual character and reflect the time back then,” he said.
Kropp said that Energy Ottawa will take its time to evaluate the Gananoque properties, adding that the company is sensitive to the feelings that people in small towns have toward their historic buildings.
Bruce Davis, founder of the Gananoque Brewing Company, which is next door to the hydro property, said 5 King Street buildings are important to the history and future of Gananoque.
“The site is important and we need that company to be a big part of the community,” he said.
Davis noted that the building is at the site where Gananoque began. Founder Joel Stone ran a ferry service across the Gananoque River at the location.
With the revitalization of the area by his brewery and the Socialist Pig, the old power building becomes a key part of downtown renewal, he said.
“It’s become rundown and that’s unacceptable,” Davis said. “This is a key site on the Gananoque River and it cannot be allowed to deteriorate.”
Michael O’Reilly, regional manager of Eastern Ontario Power, said residential and business electricity users in Gananoque won’t be affected by the Energy Hydro-Fortis deal.
His company, which distributes electricity in Gananoque, was not part of the deal.
“As far as anybody consuming electricity in Gananoque and the surrounding area, nothing has changed,” O’Reilly said. “It’s the same electricity from the same generators and the same billing.”