Perth County, Stratford may not agree on former archives building demolition

·4 min read

PERTH COUNTY – At its meeting on Dec. 2, county council took steps to begin plans to renovate its building located at 5 Huron Street in Stratford to house its administrative offices. These steps led staff to bring forward a report declaring the former archives building at 24 St. Andrews Street surplus to the needs of the county at the Dec. 16 meeting.

The building was built in 1910 as a Land Registry Office, later it was used as the county’s archives services but it has been vacant since a new archives facility was built in 2014. The building is situated in the footprint of what is referred to as the Courthouse campus, along with the County Courthouse and 5 Huron Street.

Staff engaged NA Engineering to provide cost estimates for options such as demolition, site rehabilitation or severance and sale of the property.

“It’s in extremely poor condition so we are bringing that forward to you so that we can either dispose of it or we demolish it,” said CAO Lori Wolfe. Asbestos and mould were among the issues cited for leaving the building vacant.

Coun. Daryl Herlick said he has a soft spot for classical architecture buildings.

“That being said I’m the first one to call a spade a spade,” he said. “At this point, I think the wisest thing to do would recommend demolish and resettle the bricks – stuff like that.”

Herlick said some companies take down buildings like this very carefully and he believes some of it may be able to be reused.

“At the end of the day what kind of room would that give us? What could we do with that area? Would we make a green space, sitting area?” he asked. “I think the right thing to do is maybe just (the complete) removal of it.”

Coun. Robert Wilhelm said it was unfortunate but he agreed with Herlick on this matter.

“I think it would be best served to be demolished and I would like to see us keep the property for possible future use,” he said. “Down the road, we can always sever the property after and sell it if we’d like.”

Coun. Walter McKenzie agreed.

“I don’t think we’ve got a lot of options for the building itself,” he said. “It’s in bad shape.”

Coun. Todd Kasenberg also agreed with the comments of his fellow council members. He asked if responsible demolition, as suggested by Herlick, was incorporated into the plan and budget.

Director of Public Works John McClelland said he did not know if NA Engineering took ideas such as reusing material into the associated costs but he thinks that would be an excellent idea and he would run that by them.

McKenzie wondered if some of the old materials could be used in the new addition they are doing at the courthouse to “incorporate a little bit of the past into the future.”

“That’s always a potential,” said Warden Jim Aitcheson. “We can have a look into it.”

Council passed a motion in favour of taking steps towards the demolition of 24 St. Andrews Street.

However, with the location of the former archives building being located in the Heritage Conservation District of the City of Stratford, the plan may not move forward as easy as county council intended.

Mayor Dan Matheson raised the issue during Stratford council’s new business at its meeting on Dec. 20.

“I did have a conversation this morning with Warden Jim Aitcheson of the County of Perth regarding the former archives building on St. Andrews Street,” he said. “The warden has committed to having a meeting in the new year concerning the building and its future.”

As of that point, the county had not applied for a demolition permit for the building and Matheson said he sought assurance from Aitcheson that they would not undertake the application process before they had an opportunity to meet.

Coun. Danielle Ingram said she believed the archives building is part of the Heritage Conservation District and it would be required to come before Stratford council for approval of demolition.

Stratford Planning Director Alyssa Bridge told Ingram she was correct.

“The building is located in the Heritage Conservation District and a demotion permit would ultimately come to council for approval or refusal,” she said.

There was some discussion to clarify ownership of the buildings in the courthouse campus area. Matheson said that the jail is provincially owned, but the archives building, the Service Ontario building and the courthouse are owned by Perth County, although they are subject to city bylaws, however; even though the former archives building is located in Stratford’s Heritage Conservation District, it’s not designated as a heritage building.

Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

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