There has been a lot of interest in a Strathcona property that is currently approved for demolition by City staff. This issue was brought to light in his article “Demolition Permit for Mount St. Joseph Issued During Council Recess” which was published by local independent journalist Joey Coleman on The Public Record and Raise the Hammer on November 12, 2014. This raised a lot of eyebrows for two significant reasons, the first being the timing of the demolition permit and the second being the potential Heritage significance of the site.
The Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee met on November 20th, and this site was discussed in length. The Hamilton Spectator’s Mark McNeil attended the meeting, and has provided interesting insight from both the developer who own’s the site, Mr. Darko Vranich and outgoing Ward One Councillor Brian McHattie. Mr. Vranich has agreed to put the demolition on hold so that an interested party may discuss potential for an alternative site development that would include preserving the structure of the old orphanage.
Strathcona Community Council Notes
Our council executive had two members present at the Municipal Heritage Committee meeting taking notes.
1) The Mount St. Joseph building has no official heritage status, it has not been flagged in any of the heritage registries; it is located outside the radius of the downtown heritage inventory project and the Ray-Pearl north study area, and it has not been flagged in the secondary plan.
2) The city has not completed any formal evaluation or assessment of the property to determine heritage value. As such, they do not know if the building will meet official heritage designation requirements.
3) Alissa Golden, Heritage Planning Office, states that there is some evidence to research for heritage designation.
4) There was talk of putting the property on the register rather than seeking heritage designation, but there is no retro-active activity unless it is actually designated. The only value in doing this would be if the demolition permit becomes void.
5) The property is outside the radius of the downtown heritage inventory project, so demolition can occur without a building plan. In the City of Hamilton only residential buildings require a building plan to permit demolition.
6) The building has potential mould problems and is in disrepair.
7) The developer followed all of the proper procedures to obtain the demolition permit.
8) There is concern among the committee that if heritage designation is sought, that the developer will become uncooperative because it puts extensive demands on the project.
9) The developer suggests two (four-storey) office buildings on the lot and has five designs available, one of which incorporates the existing building or aspects of it in the design. It is the reasoning of one City staffer that only one adaptive re-use design means negotiation is needed to bring focus to that design over the other four.
Note: The suggested designs may not match what is in the Strathcona Secondary Plan, in terms of density along King St.
10) The design plan considers severing the plot. The challenge is that the building and King St. frontage is zoned differently than the rear space fronting onto Market St.
11) Brian McHattie had mentioned that he spoke with another person, a former orphan who lived at Mt St Joseph’s. He owns an insurance company in Oakville. He has expressed interest in purchasing or leasing the building and using the building for his insurance business (adaptive re-use). It is unknown at this time if this person actually has the money and knowledge to follow through with this project.
12) The committee feels that a better approach would be to try and negotiate with the developer to keep the building or aspects of it in the new design rather than seek designation and risk collaboration.
13) The committee made two motions regarding this property, the first to meet with the current owner and the other interested party, and the second was to invite the owner to the planning committee meeting.
14) There is a deadline of December 9th (the next planning committee meeting date) to move forward with any activity regarding the heritage value of this property.
15) The developer/owner is Darko Vranich. Mr. Vranich also owns the properties on the north side of Market St. Presently a vacant lot and a parking lot.
Inspired by the Durand Neighbourhood Association, the Strathcona Community Council have made it an agenda topic at our next meeting to discuss pursuing heritage designations within the Strathcona Neighbourhood. The DNA has made a presentation to have their neighbourhood designated as a heritage conservation district. We will keep everyone up to date on our continuing Heritage conversation. If you are interested, have any concerns or comments, please share them with us via email, firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us @hamiltonscc or send us a post on Facebook.