Under the current deal with Wilson-Blanchard, they will demolish 18-28 King Street East, construct a new building and re-attach heritage elements from the current facades.
By Brian McHattie
Published August 06, 2013
It's important to know the results of meetings that Councillor Jason Farr and I have had with the Blanchard group. This represents my belief in what will transpire - and I say belief, as there still needs to be a legal commitment on the part of the developer to ensure the way forward.
Fencing around 18-28 King Street East (RTH file photo)
The developer has held demolition permits since December 2012 for 18-22, 24 and 28 King Street East. The demolition permits were issued following the process as described in the Building Code Act, wherein a permit application must be granted by the Chief Building Official with 20 working days (subject to minor clarifications).
There is no requirement under the Act for anyone to know about such permit requests, including City Councillors.
That is not the case for buildings that are on the Register of Buildings of Historic Interest or those that are designated under the Act.
It's important to note that Municipal Heritage Committee made a recommendation in November 2012 that 18-28 King Street East be added to the Register. That recommendation was denied by Planning Committee and Council.
In January 2013, Councillor Farr and I met with the Blanchard group and a subsequent Council motion confirmed an agreement that three of the five King Street East properties (the Thomas buildings) would be preserved in some way and two of the buildings would be fully demolished.
On a Friday in July 2012, the Blanchard group decided to threaten demolition of the buildings by lining up equipment behind the buildings.
Councillor Farr and I met with them that afternoon and via subsequent discussions, have agreed: to dismantle the facades of all five buildings; demolish the buildings themselves; construct new buildings and re-attach the heritage building facades; and that the buildings would be designated so the developer could take advantage of the downtown heritage grant program.
Councillor Farr, municipal heritage staff and other staff continue to meet with the Blanchard group to make this agreement into a legal arrangement, and to develop a plan for the dismantlement and re-attachment of the facades, with the proper heritage guidance.
Part of these discussions is for the Blanchard group to submit a development application to the City of Hamilton so we all know what the new development will consist of. My current understanding is a four-storey residential condo, with comments about a higher development built further back toward Main Street.
I should add that I've spoken with Provincial officials several times in the last months and they have made it very clear that they will not intervene, and consider this a municipal issue only.
Is this a good heritage outcome? No. The Gore area should have been designated as a Conservation District many years ago. A look back reveals how many City Councils (not just this City Council) had information on the importance of the Gore, yet did not act.
So, where do we stand in this imperfect situation?
The agreement with the Blanchard group will go ahead as described above. As noted, this is not a desirable outcome, but the best possible political outcome, given the circumstances (demolition permits issued and partially enacted on the interior of the buildings).
Councillor Farr moved to add all other Gore addresses to the Register, allowing a 60 day review should any additional demolition permit applications come in. All of those properties are now on the Register.
Via a presentation to the Municipal Heritage Committee, the Royal Connaught redevelopment will respect the reasons for designation, and that property should be designated by City Council shortly, either as a stand-alone act or via the development application.
Once the above has transpired, it is my view that the Gore District should be designated a Heritage Conservation District.
Lastly, there remains a list of 6,000 properties on the city's Inventory of Buildings of Architectural and/or Historical Interest (there were 7,000 but a current staff project is examining the 1,000 properties in downtown Hamilton).
None of them have any heritage protection associated with them, and all of them would be subject to the same treatment as 18-28 King Street East should someone wish to apply for a demolition permit.
In April 2013, we held the first Citizens Forum on Cultural Heritage Protection. The goal was to explain the "list of 6,000" and begin assembling volunteers and a citizen-driven protocol to inventory them to the point where as many as qualify can be added to the Register and eventually be evaluated for full heritage designation.
We are still seeking finalization of the inventory protocol and hope to train volunteers this fall to get out into the neighbourhoods to conduct this inventory. I invite your assistance.
I look forward to working with people who have a passion for cultural heritage to ensure we find ourselves in a proactive heritage protection position in the years to come.
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