Children's museum will cost the city at least $400K to fix

There are no inexpensive answers in what to do about the Hamilton Children's Museum, which has been closed since the summer.

Museum was closed this summer amid safety concerns

It’s going to cost city hall at least $400,000 to fix up the Hamilton Children’s Museum, which has been closed for repairs since July.

City council has two options for the ailing building, which has been the museum’s home since 1978. The first is to spend $400,000 to fix up the existing building. The second is to spend about $7 million to build a new museum, and another $2 million to put it in a temporary location.

Neither are appealing financial options. But members of the general issues committee said this week that it’s important that it stay in Gage Park, in accordance with the city’s Gage Park master plan.

Coun. Terry Whitehead was unhappy with the cost.

“When you can build a pool for less than a children’s museum, something is out of line,” he said Wednesday.

The museum is housed in a red brick farmhouse built in the 1870s. Originally a farmhouse for the Gage family, it has since served as a lawyer’s office and a residence for the park manager. The current museum offers year-long programming.

It was closed in July when an engineering firm noticed some “structural deficiencies” and recommended it be closed to the public and staff for safety reasons.

The city has no current budget to build a new museum, or to give it a temporary home, the staff report said. It also doesn’t have $400,000 set aside to fix the existing building.

Councillors voted to have staff report back with more information on the two options, ruling out the museum being located anywhere other than Gage Park.

It also voted to spend $16,000 in maintenance costs for the Chedoke Estate, a house at 1 Balfour Dr.

Built in the 1830s, the early Victorian stone manor house and stable is located at the brow of the escarpment. The Southam family bought it in 1909, and the city took it over 1979. In doing so, it entered in a life-long lease with Mrs. Wilson Elizabeth Baxter, who died in February of this year.

Staff will work with the Ontario Heritage Trust to look at the future use of the property and report back to the committee.

The estate needs an annual maintenance budget of about $20,000, staff said.

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