Albion balcony might lose heritage designation
April 12, 2012
GRAVENHURST - Handlers of the Albion Hotel estate are stuck in a hard place, weighing history against the future and what either might cost.
Cheryl Keates, who is currently handling the estate and attempting to sell the Albion Hotel, was in front of council April 3 seeking approval to have the building’s main street balcony removed. The crux, she said, is that the estate cannot afford to restore the balcony to a usable state, let alone its original state as defined in the town’s bylaws.
The Albion is designated a town heritage building and its balcony is specifically identified in the designation, meaning Keates needs council to remove reference to the balcony for her to have it dismantled.
“It’s been deemed unsafe,” Keates said of the balcony, which had seen some work during the winter to stabilize it in partnership with the estate, town and the local heritage committee.
Keates was in possession of a letter from the town that requested the estate have an architect inspect the balcony, which, she said, has been done.
That inspection revealed the balcony is unusable.
“His recommendations were that the balcony be removed, so it’s been temporarily stabilized,” Keates said.
She has also had discussions with the heritage committee, which is in agreement to having the balcony removed, so long as the intent is to have it replaced with a more true representation of its original heritage state in the future, she added.
“The current balcony is not the actual original state; I’m just trying to get the building sold at this point and the estate just doesn’t have the funds to repair it, so the best solution economically is to remove it.”
Scott Lucas, the town’s manager of development services, explained that as the building is designated as a heritage building with the bylaw making specific mention of the balcony, council would have to consider the removal of the reference to the balcony through an amendment. He said his department would help by creating a report detailing council’s options with potential outcomes, with the hope to have that ready for the next council meeting April 17. Lucas said the heritage committee would be part of that report and give comment on their preferred outcome.
Coun. Joe Donoghue, who is also a council representative on the heritage committee, said the organization’s goals will be to have the balcony replaced, but that consideration of the need to sell and the economics of repair or replacement would be considered in any decision.
“The intent of the heritage committee is to keep that structure (balcony) on. It has to be removed because it has been deemed unsafe at this moment and we’ll work towards that, but the goal is to have it replaced, not just taken down,” he said.
Coun. Heidi Lorenz was the most direct with her questioning of staff.
“Doesn’t safety trump heritage,” she posed.
“The short answer is yes,” Lucas said. “There are alternatives in regards to development opportunities through the town and ultimately what needs to happen, whether it’s demo’d (demolished) or rebuilt, council needs to approve that. We’ll provide the other alternatives for council when we bring it (the report) back.”
Keates said as it stands the best solution for the estate is to have the balcony removed as it is a difficult selling point in its current state. She could not suggest any potential new owner would be willing to take on the cost of replacement, but it would be a request made.
“Realistically a request to replace it or rebuild it (of a new owner) could come at some point, but at this point we’re not in a position to do that financially,” Keates said.
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