An affordable housing project on the city’s west end may not move ahead, depending on the outcome of a heritage designation appeal.
Howard Kennedy of UpBuilding! Non-Profit Homes said the city’s effort to designate the agency’s property at 50-60 Fife Rd. under the Ontario Heritage Act would add significantly to the cost and could kill the effort.
“I think we’ve got a good project here that makes a lot of sense. It’s turning a … lousy building that’s not doing its job into a great building that will work extremely well,” he said, noting UpBuilding submitted a notice of appeal with the city clerk’s office on Tuesday, just ahead of the deadline. “It would be very disappointing if we can’t do that because of … minor squabbling over heritage designations.
“I’m all in favour of heritage and preserving our culture, history and all that, but I think we have to be practical and reasonable in what we’re actually preserving.”
City clerk Stephen O'Brien confirmed a notice of objection has been submitted.
“It’s going to be several months before that’s resolved,” Kennedy said of the appeal.
The plan is to demolish a three-storey tower and attached building which provides five affordable housing units in order to construct new buildings with 18 affordable housing units.
The tower and attached building used to be home for city mayor and county councillor, F.J. Chadwick (elected mayor in 1877), but has undergone a number of expansions and alterations through the years.
"Is this really a heritage structure?" Kennedy pondered, adding the homes of other past mayors haven't been designated.
If things go smoothly, Kennedy hopes to see shovels in the ground late next year, with completion expected in 2024, though he admits that may be a bit too optimistic.
“We’re at the initial planning stages,” he said. “We need to find financing to be able to do this.”
The entire project is expected to cost about $4 million, he said, noting funding will be sought from all levels of government as well as organizations such as the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
When it comes to the heritage designation issue, things get a bit complicated, potentially adding to the time and/or cost of the project.
In an 11-2 vote this past July, council approved a motion meant to open the way for the redevelopment effort by seeking formal protection of aspects of the building under the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA).
The approved motion calls for “heritage attributes of the tower portion” of the building to be “retained and that partial demolition of the balance of the building be approved.” It further authorized a notice of intention to designate “heritage attributes” of the tower under Part IV of the OHA.
A report to council at the time specifies the heritage attributes as the tower’s conical flat roof, slate shingles and wooden corbels.
Preserving those aspects of the tower may not be possible, said Kennedy, explaining the process itself could result in damage to the heritage features. It could also add $100,000 to $200,000 to the cost.
However, the city’s notice, published on Aug. 4, states the city “intends to designate 50-60 Fife Road as a property of cultural heritage value or interest.”
It’s not possible to designate only aspects of a building and move them elsewhere on the site, which is UpBuilding’s plan as proposed to council in July, said Diane Chin, president of Architectural Conservancy Ontario.
“When they do the heritage statement, they will often refer to specific elements that need to be preserved, but my understanding is they are to be preserved in situ (in place), not removed and put somewhere else,” she explained. “It certainly wouldn’t be in accordance with the Ontario Heritage Act.”If the entire property were to be designated, Kennedy said “that would kill the project.”