Hamilton will continue to look for private funding interest to restore and use Auchmar Estates.

Councillors passed a report Wednesday during the general issues committee meeting recommending that city staff go ahead with a comprehensive operational plan and continue to look for potential private sector funding, or even a sale.

The City of Hamilton acquired Auchmar Estates in 1999, located on the corner of Fennell Avenue and West 5th Street. The estate has been unused since 2001.

"It should be a national historic site," said delegate Robin McKee.

Auchmar Estates was built in 1852 by Isaac Buchanan, a Hamilton merchant and politician.

McKee runs heritage tours of Hamilton and Auchmar is one of his stops. He said Buchanan ran the first major import and export business in Hamilton and even advised Sir John A. MacDonald on how to run the country.

"Everything he did in his life accumulated in that building and it is ours," McKee said. "If Auchmar is not restored and put into good use, we will lose it."

Despite the report, city planning chief Tim McCabe said the city needs to take action on the property.

"I want to emphasize that all of us have to take away is that we're setting up a plan of action to set up a plan to make a decision and we need to make a decision," he said.

McCabe said the city needs a sustainable plan for "creative adaptive reuse." It's a heritage site, so a property development, for example, is not allowed.

Councillor Chad Collins said the report is a "good start." He wants to see the city secure some private funding while moving forward with development.

"The last things we want is to end up with a situation like the Lister Block, said Collins. "It looks amazing . . . but one thing it didn't have is a business plan. Instead of commercial signs [in the windows] we have lease ones."