Vrancor now plans to preserve part of the west side of the old Revenue Canada building at 150 Main Street West as part of a new structure.
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 07, 2011
this article has been updated
According to Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr, Vrancor is now planning to restore part of the old Revenue Canada building at 150 Main Street West.
Old Revenue Canada building at 150 Main Street West (at Caroline Street)
Breaking News: Vrancor will restore parts of the west end of Federal Building (Caroline & Main), keeping the Holbrook sculptures in place.
Councillor Farr followed up this evening in an email to RTH providing more detail on Vrancor's plan. "The west side (includes the Main portion) will be preserved. The glass design [for the new building] will be attached to the east side."
In addition, "Three stories above the preserved portion will be added (glass). They will be residential units (condos v rental, not yet decided)."
As for why Vrancor has decided to preserve some of the original building, Farr muses, "My safe assumption is that the developer sees the value in preserving this section."
Earlier this year, controversy erupted around Vrancor's plan to demolish 150 Main Street West to make room for a 140 unit, 20-storey condominium on the site.
At the February 1, 2011 Planning Committee meeting that considered Vrancor's request for a demolition permit, Councillor Terry Whitehead pointed out that the Federal Government sold the property to Vrancor along with a covenant committing the owner to "conserve, protect and maintain the heritage features and characteristics" of the building and "not to raze to the ground or otherwise demolish the entire building located on the lands."
Vrancor president Darko Vranich signed the covenant when he bought the property.
Tim McCabe, General Manager of Planning and Economic Development, argued that it was not the City's job to enforce the covenant, as that was a matter between Vrancor and the Federal Government.
Also at the meeting, the Municipal Heritage Committee submitted a recommendation to designate 150 Main Street West as a Municipal Heritage building.
Their list of heritage criteria includes the incorporation of artistic works, particularly Elizabeth Bradford's bas-relief sculptures.
The committee voted against the Heritage Committee's recommendation and granted the demolition permit.
The next day, Government Services Canada sent a letter to Vrancor stating that the building must not be demolished. The letter reads in part:
Please be reminded that the Government of Canada sold the property with a covenant that runs with the land in perpetuity which, in addition to protecting certain designated features and facades, requires that you and subsequent purchasers not 'raze to the ground or otherwise demolish the entire building'.
On February 11, Councillor Farr held a joint press conference with Vranich in which he announced that Vrancor intended to remove and preserve Bradford's bas-relief friezes.
Vrancor originally bought the property from the Federal Government in 2004 for $1.2 million. Since then, the developer has proposed several plans to renovate the existing building into condos but never followed through.
During the interim, the building has served as an illegal storage facility for hotel mattresses and furniture. In August 2009, the City levied a $10,500 fine against Vrancor for violating the Ontario Fire Code.
In the meantime, the company has assembled a large, contiguous package of land between Hess, Main, Bay and King Streets - including the site of the former Hamilton Motor Products (HMP) automobile dealership, which was demolished in November 2007.
Update: This article originally stated that Vrancor owns the site of an illegal parking lot at the corner of Main Street and Bay Street. This is incorrect: the HMP site, at 132 Main Street West, is an L-shaped lot that wraps to the east and north of the parking lot at the corner, which is at 114 Main Street West and is not owned by Vrancor. RTH regrets the error.
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