James Street Baptist Church Proposal Looking Worse and Worse

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)
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.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.


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By Jim Street (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2013 at 11:38:30

The money they will get just from the salvage of the stone will be immense. These guys know only how to recycle profits not buildings.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2013 at 14:00:36

Hamilton: Our Heritage Is History

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By Jim Street (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2013 at 16:42:22

Coming soon - Vanished Hamilton Vol. 7 - the church edition.

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By J (registered) | Posted October 09, 2013 at 19:25:57

basically your article is nmeanspirited speculation and baseless personal attacks. I read the Coleman piece side by side with this and was thankful there are still some practising journalists in the city.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted October 11, 2013 at 09:23:28 in reply to Comment 93079

I'd like to point out this is in the "blog" section, and doesn't advertise itself as an article.

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By thou dost protest (anonymous) | Posted October 10, 2013 at 08:10:45 in reply to Comment 93079

Whatever, Louie. Go speculate somewhere else we don't need your destructive BS here anymore

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted October 11, 2013 at 09:22:07

While I sympathize with the skepticism and fear that the demolition is not urgently needed, we knew before it was sold that the whole reason the church congregation was selling and leaving is because there were major structural problems that they could not afford to fix.

The fact the foundation walls are bulging 6 inches out at chest height is very concerning.

Do I think it has to come down before this winter? Probably not. But would I be upset if this spring the north wall suddenly collapsed and took the tower with it? You're damned right I would be.

It's hard to know who to trust, and I think the heritage committee is doing their due diligence, and hope they will make the best decision in the end.

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By james b (anonymous) | Posted October 11, 2013 at 12:14:56

how about we take the trust out of this and ask the developer to post a multi million dollar bond on the property to proceed?
$5 million or so should be incentive enough to maintain heritage elements in the project.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted October 18, 2013 at 17:39:31

I almost wish there was a Holmes on Homes TV show that stepped in when an incredible historic building is being build and went through the steps as to why the original developer built it that way, why it's in trouble and what needs to be done to fix it, and then they go about fixing it.

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