Demolition on Gore Park buildings halted

The demolition of two historic buildings lining Gore Park have been called off for the moment.
Demolition crews started moving equipment into the Gore Park area on Friday. (Sunnie Huang/CBC)

Demolition of two historic buildings lining Gore Park has been abruptly called off after a meeting between councillors, city officials and the developer that owns the buildings.

Crews had moved heavy demolition equipment to the site on Friday, catching councillors who had been lobbying for a stay of execution by surprise.

However,  Councillors Jason Farr and Brian McHattie pulled together a hurried meeting with city officials and representatives from Wilson Blanchard, the company that owns the buildings, on Friday afternoon to discuss the issue.

"The development group has agreed to move the bulldozer from the site and not move forward with any exterior demolition," said Jason Farr, councillor for Ward 2.

Wilson Blanchard's move to tear down the building was the result of "a miscommunication" between the company and city staff, said Farr.

The appearance of construction fencing and demolition equipment on Friday morning came a week and a half after Farr announced the city had come to a compromise that would stave off demolition on the two properties — 24 and 28 King Street E — until the parties involve could come up with a solution that would "maintain the architectural and heritage character of the buildings.

Shocked to learn the demolition was going ahead despite the compromise, Farr and Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie called a last-minute meeting with Wilson Blanchard officials on Friday to temporarily save the buildings.

During the encounter, Farr said, it was discovered that Wilson Blanchard had "misinterpreted" a communication from the city indicating the company's demolition permit would expire if the company hadn't commenced demolition by August.

However, the demolition process, Farr said, technically began when crews removed asbestos from the 19th-Century buildings — meaning the demolition permit won't expire at the end of July, even if the structures are still standing.

The developer and the city, he said, have agreed to enlist an independent peer review of the company's reports of the structural integrity of the building, as per the understanding that was reached earlier in July.

"While cautious, I did leave this meeting with Councillor McHattie with the belief that our agreement would go ahead."

Representative from Wilson Blanchard didn't offer comment Friday  beyond confirming in an email that the demolition was on hold.