What's to become of Royal Edward Arms?

A city councillor hopes the Royal Edward Arms will be preserved after Thunder Bay Housing pulls out after 2015.

Questions being raised about how heritage building will be preserved when social housing tenants are gone after 2015

Thunder Bay City Coun. Larry Hebert said, whatever happens to the building, its historic value must be preserved.    "The interior has not been treated very well unfortunately, and we've got to do something about that," said Hebert.

Hebert is a member of the city's heritage advisory committee, and he said the property, originally built in 1929, is an important part of Thunder Bay's history.

"It's a fabulous building, and, you know, we've got to preserve that heritage. It was the landmark on the Fort William side [of Thunder Bay] as the Prince Arthur was on the Port Arthur side, and it has a tremendous history to it. 

"The Queen stayed there when she was here, and so it's got a lot of history," Hebert said.

Local architect Ahsanul Habib specializes in converting this type of building, and he said the Royal Edward Arms could help revitalize the downtown core.

"Personally, I think it should ... remain as residential, because south-side downtown is not a big area. We need to bring people in there," Habib said.

Hebert agrees the property should be used to draw more people into the south side. But, he said, housing isn't the only way to do that.

"I think it's one of the things we could have as almost an anchor-type of building down there. It could be offices, it could be a number of things," he said.

Hebert says the exterior of Royal Edward Arms is still in decent shape, and if the inside is restored the building could attract new businesses. 

Thunder Bay Housing said it will cease using the Royal Edward Arms for social housing after 2015 because the property operates at a big loss.

"The operating expenses exceed the revenue by about $270,000 a year," said Bill Bradica, acting chief administrative officer for the District Social Services Administration Board.

Bradica said the board did not approach the city to take out a new lease after 2015.

He said the building is 90 years old, and the cost of any improvements would be over and above operating expenses.