By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published October 09, 2013
By now you have probably seen Paul Wilson's recent piece on the James Street Baptist Church demolition permit request at CBC Hamilton. It turns out the the JSBC proposal keeps getting worse the more we hear about it.
James Street Baptist Church (RTH file photo)
The building sale closed in June with the buyer paying $610,000, only 40 percent of the assessed value. It is clear that the selling price was reduced to take into account the cost of maintaining the existing building.
We already knew the developers didn't have a plan or financing to re-build in the foreseeable future and that, nevertheless, they need to demolish 80 percent of the 130-year-old building before the weather turns cold.
It now transpires that these "developers" haven't developed anything at all, and in fact company president Louie Santaguida's previous ventures, an environmental clean-up and metal fabrication outfit, went bankrupt and derailed major development projects in Brantford and Long Point.
So, to recap: we have a request from a developer whose company hasn't developed anything and who has a recent history of large-scale bankruptcy to immediately demolish 80 percent of a heritage designated building he bought at a fire-sale price, and he has no plans to develop the site and quite possibly not even the expertise or experience to pull off even the vaguely ambitious proposal he has floated.
It is at least as plausible that his real plan may be to level the lot and then flip it at some later date. Surely even the land value is higher than the $610,000 he paid for it.
Should we be surprised, on demolition, if he then claims that the remaining 20 percent is in far worse shape than originally thought and must be demolished as well (for the sake of public safety), or if it mysteriously collapses once the rest of the building comes down?
For decades, Hamilton has allowed itself to suffer from a plague of bottom-feeding speculators who are eager to destroy the built heritage of the city to make it simpler to sit on vacant property for years. The worst thing is that our low civic self-esteem means these speculators are usually portrayed as economic saviours!
Is this another chapter in the same sad saga? Only time will tell, but the heritage review committee - and ultimately council - need to be extremely skeptical of this proposal.
The heritage review committee meets at noon today to consider the demolition permit request. You can watch a livestream of the meeting.
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