Special Report: Education

Still Waiting for Detailed Cost Estimate of Board of Education Renovation

Sometimes we have to let it go, but not every time. We need much better cost data before concluding it is infeasible to renovate the Board of Education building.

By Matt Jelly
Published March 08, 2012

I wanted to make a point of clarification to part of today's Hamilton Spectator editorial, "Sometimes, we have to let go".

The author, Lee Prokaska, compares the Ontario Municipal Board decision to approve the demolition of All Saints Anglican Church to the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board's decision to sell the Board of Education building to McMaster University, which intends to demolish it.

Estimates for renovating and adding to the existing centre for board use range as high as $55 million, compared to the $31.6 million estimate to build a new, consolidated headquarters on the Mountain. Where would the money come from for renovation?

The $55 million number cited is not the cost to renovate the building at 100 Main as it stands. That number was quoted from a November 2007 report from the HWDSB. The $55 million would be the cost of building two new buildings.

The report includes the options presented to the board in 2007 at the beginning of this process. Option 3 would include renovation of all existing administrative buildings the board uses (seven buildings at the time) for $44 million ($16 million in renovation, $28 million in cumulative maintenance).

Option 4 includes a renovated 100 Main Street West and is quoted at $65 million. This would have included an 70,000 square foot addition onto 100 Main Street, as well as a 500 spot parking structure, and a 30-bay maintenance facility.

No breakdown of costs is supplied along with these numbers to explain the specific costs, line by line.

How much would a 500-spot underground parking garage cost? Why should staff parking be paid for by the public? Public employees at City Hall, Revenue Canada etc. are expected to figure out their own parking arrangements, at their own cost. Why isn't this the case with the school board? How much does the parking structure add to the overall cost?

Whether 100 Main is saved or not, those questions still remain valid.

I've been told by a Trustee that the board's ReCapp estimate of 100 Main said it would be $17 million. I believe this number was never publicly disclosed. ReCapp software (estimates are produced using software, without an actual on-site assessment) is not completely reliable or accurate and prone to overestimation. The Ministry plans to scrap this system within a year or two, due to the acknowledged problems with the software.

The Spectator editors are entitled to their opinion that we can't save every building. I've gotten used to reading this same editorial in the Spec every time we discuss old buildings. I get it.

In the case of All Saints Church, over the course of the appeal I eventually understood fully the limitations the church was under, and decided the appeal was no longer worth pursuing.

Sometimes we do need to let go. Just not every time.

This case is altogether different than All Saints. One is an earthquake-damaged stone church built 140 years ago, with limited capabilities in terms of reuse. The other is a structurally sound public building that is only 46 years old.

I've put a lot of time and effort into this campaign simply to get the Board and McMaster to take another look at the feasibility of renovating 100 Main Street West. More than anything, I want the true costs thoroughly examined and explained before we decide to demolish it with public dollars.

I want full, open data, all of the numbers verified. If the costs are researched and it proves to be not viable, I can accept demolition. But until then, I can't simply accept that option by default, as so many others seem prepared to do.

Even if the Board feels it doesn't want to remain at 100 Main Street, I want to know these numbers so we can decide whether it's feasible to incorporate this building in the proposed development. We're paying for it, and I think the public deserves to know what's possible.

I'd much rather lose this one on the actual merits than on a number that was not fully researched and is repeated without context.

I would hope the Spectator can do more to examine these options, rather than dismiss them in a few sentences.

Jelly is a local artist, graphic designer and map maker living in Downtown Hamilton, Ontario in the Central Neighbourhood. Matt is an advocate for built heritage, toxic waste eradication and the revitalization of downtown Hamilton. www.mattjelly.com

16 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By bravo (anonymous) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 12:34:53

Bravo! The spec needs to do better than phone in lazy editorials if they want to be taken seriously as "the" paper of record in the city.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By highwater (registered) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 12:47:47

Amen. The Spec editorial was the kind of thing I expect to see on the Hamiltonian or the Bob Server. I expect alot more from professional journalists.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 20:50:03

I'm really upset about All Saints Church. It goes without saying that I'm not privy to the whole story behind this issue, but considering where it is, I've always thought a restaurant or perhaps a theatre space would work well there [preferably it would stay a place of worship].

It's a simplistic way of looking at things, I know, but I'm so tired of seeing our beautiful buildings demo'd in favour of some hideous concrete slab or more typically a strip of asphalt. I particularly dislike people suggesting that ridding downtown of this building will, in some way, help to revitalise the core. Just take it down and be done with it ~ don't bother with the platitudes.

Anywho, thanks for advocating on behalf of concerned Hamiltonians. I've got my fingers crossed for 100 Main W.

Comment edited by DrAwesomesauce on 2012-03-08 20:51:55

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 07:16:57

I was under the impression that the congregation of All Saints wanted the building to come down, as it was prohibitively expensive to repair the site, and that they were fully backing the rebuild as affordable housing. I'm not keen on that being there, but I don't think that every building can and must be saved.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 10:18:11

Don't worry...at the rate we're going, NONE of our historic buildings will be saved.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.

By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 21:25:18 in reply to Comment 75124

...Doubtful. But love the hyperbole.

Again, why not save every building then? Buildings where A) they are too expensive to repair, B) Structurally unsound, C) Owned by the private sector and D) the owner and users of the site are OK with the demolition and planned reuse of the site shouldn't be looked down on by members of the community at large. If you love the building, make an offer on it, and pay the millions to restore it.

So, if it's time for that building to come down, so be it.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2012-03-09 21:52:45

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.

By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted March 10, 2012 at 04:17:46 in reply to Comment 75137

Suggesting I should put up or shut up, yes? So just what are you contributing to this discussion or to the struggle to maintain our heritage? You couldn't care less. Pretty easy stance to take ~ not giving a damn ~ not to mention littering this site with your fatalistic nonsense.

Anyway, reckon you're just looking for a fight. Happy to oblige as always.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.

By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted March 11, 2012 at 09:12:30 in reply to Comment 75140

Nah, not looking for a fight.

I'm basing it on what the owners (appear to) want, rather than "activists" who want to save something the principals don't.

This isn't a fight like for the Lister, old city hall, the Tiv, and so on. It's a building with multiple factors going against it - expensive and wide-reaching repairs, the owners (who are NOT the City) don't want it and want to use it for something else, and it's not a heritage building.

I'm just using the same hyperbole back that's been used towards me before, the ridiculous claim that if you take a side contrary to the vocal minority here, you are somehow wrong, old, backwards, and indifferent.

I love our city's heritage. However, it can't all be saved, nor should it. Old MUST mix with new for a city to grow and thrive. That's all.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By Steve (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 11:54:14

St Marks is another old church which is stucturally unsound so I guess that means you would support it to be demolished if city budgets don't allow for any further stabilization or an affordable/economic future use.

The earthquake may have been the original cause to the structural issues but not addressing the issue in the subsequent years allowed the issues to continue to deterioate until today. Note, the church was used for years - 11 years - after the earthquake.

You state, it doesn't deserve to be preserved because it's 140 years old. Being 140 years old is all the more reason it should be preserved!

I'm not saying the BoE shouldn't be saved, but by your own words and actions you've proven to be a hypocrite and a cherry picker.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.

By Goderich (anonymous) | Posted March 11, 2012 at 18:17:29 in reply to Comment 75125

St. Marks is city-held at this point, is it not? If so, we can expect the same attention to heritage detail that so distinguished their City Hall reno.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.

By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2012 at 12:49:29 in reply to Comment 75125

In the case of All Saints Church, over the course of the appeal I eventually understood fully the limitations the church was under, and decided the appeal was no longer worth pursuing.

Never did Matt stated that it didn't deserve to be saved.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.

By Steve (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 14:34:16 in reply to Comment 75127

140 years old and structurally unsound, so he was just saying its not worthy to be saved...

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.

By Stever (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 17:20:23 in reply to Comment 75130

Mr. Jelly dropped the appeal only after learning it didn't stand a chance. The appeal was based on zoning restrictions for the Options for Homes project, it wouldn't necessarily have saved the church anyway.

At least he stood up for heritage when he thought he could make a difference. How far did YOUR OMB appeal go?

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By Steve (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2012 at 20:28:48

Than why didn't he just say that, instead of making up excuses. In fact I do have a standing at an OMB hearing. One in my neighbourhood. Irony is that I just got the letter with the date today, thanks for asking Stever..

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.

By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted March 10, 2012 at 13:27:28 in reply to Comment 75136

Good luck.

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
[ - ]

By Allen (anonymous) | Posted March 12, 2012 at 01:46:08

This sounds so interesting

Reply | Permalink | Context

You must be logged in to vote on this comment.
View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

Comment Anonymously
Screen Name
What do you get if you multiply 5 and 1?
Leave This Field Blank
Comment

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Site Tools

Feeds