Developers of a site with historic buildings facing Gore Park are back with an amended proposal to save some and incorporate some heritage features before demolishing the current structures and rebuilding.
The redevelopment project screeched to a halt in 2013 when city council slapped a last-minute heritage designation on a small strip of buildings addressed 18 to 28 King St. E. just before they were to be torn down. They are on the southside of the park.
Proponents for redeveloping the site made an unscheduled appearance before city council’s general issues committee Wednesday with a new plan to save the façade of 18 to 22 King and demolish the rest.
A new five-storey, 20,000-square-foot building is planned that will also encompass a small adjacent vacant property where a building was demolished in 2011.
The building will have retail stores on the first floor and 14 apartments above, all with balconies overlooking Gore Park, said Tim Bullock, a lawyer representing the consortium that owns the properties.
The preserved façade will form half of the new building’s front.
“This is a compromise,” Bullock told councillors.
He said the façade to be preserved has Escarpment stone in its design and has the most heritage features worthy of preservation.
The other façade or building front, on addresses 24 to 28, has fewer heritage features, different stonework, and has deteriorated beyond reasonable repair, he said.
“Restoring all the facades would make it economically unfeasible … The engineering report says 28 (King St. E.) is very unsafe and 24 King has had its heritage features stripped.”
The two addresses also have small retail fronts not suitable to today’s retail industry, he added.
The new plan is “very respectful of the Gore,” he suggested. “It’s a win-win for the city.”
Architect David Premi, who worked on the downtown library and farmers’ market project, told councillors the building, with the original façade for half of its front and a complementing front for the other half is “an attempt to be respectful” to the original design.
Bullock said the developers have been meeting with senior city staff since last June and dealing with Jason Farr, the councillor representing the downtown, and Mayor Fred Eisenberger “to get to this point where people are comfortable”.
Premi predicted the project will “add some energy to the Gore” and bring in high quality retail space to that part of the street.
“These heritage issues often become polarized and emotionally charged,” he said. “What we’ve come up with is a really great compromise.”
Farr said after the presentation he is confident the developers are serious about resolving the issue and that their solution is good enough for him.
“I feel there’s a mutual respect and understanding and a way forward … we can get on with this and fix up the Gore,” he said, adding “I’m at the point that this is satisfactory. It works for everyone. Everyone is anxious to clean up the Gore.
“My expectation and my hope is we can finally move forward and have a fully developed part of Gore Park.”
The new proposal was referred to staff to report back to the next general issues committee meeting in a month.
The historic 19th century buildings on the site were slated for demolition in August 2013, but council blocked the demolition at the last minute with a heritage protection designation. This in effect, voided any demolition permits for the site.
The buildings are currently boarded up, but Bullock said if council is on board with the new plans, there could be a brand-new building there within 18 months.
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