City offers Gore developer $1.1M to save buildings

The city is offering David Blanchard's group $1.1 million to designate a block of Gore buildings as heritage rather than demolish all trace of them. But the developer isn't sure he'll take that offer.

David Blanchard says he's not sure his group will take that offer

The two white buildings at centre in this file photo are scheduled to be at least partially demolished as part of a new development in the Gore. They were both built in the 1870s. (Paul Wilson/CBC)

The owner of a historic block of Gore buildings says he’s not sure if he’ll take up the city on its offer of $1.1 million in grants to save as much of the buildings as possible.

David Blanchard, a principle in the Hughson Business Space Corporation, has a demolition permit for 18-28 King St. E., which overlooks Gore Park.

On Wednesday, city councillors gave conditional approval for $1.1 million in grants if Blanchard designates the buildings, built in the 1870s, as heritage properties.

Blanchard isn’t sure whether his group will take the city up on that.

“The only part (of the buildings) that will be maintained, if it is maintained, is the facades,” he told CBC Hamilton. “The rest of the building is crumbling.”

The city is offering the developer of a historic row of Gore buildings $1.1 million to save as much of the buildings' heritage aspects as possible.

As for the grants, they don’t come close to being enough money to save the buildings, he said. The group is still short “at least $1 million.”

Getting the grants would also mean getting the properties designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, which adds a whole new set of conditions.

“We have to be assured we won't get burned," he said.

The block garnered intense interest this year when Blanchard announced plans to tear down the buildings and build condos and retail space.

There was public outcry, and city councillors Jason Farr and Brian McHattie intervened, trying to persuade Blanchard's group to at least save the facades. The city has been meeting with the group since January, said Glen Norton, manager of urban renewal.

Wednesday’s conditional approval was to assure Blanchard’s group that the city will OK the money if they designate the properties, said Farr, who represents the downtown.

Once the buildings are designated, the developers would work with the city to see what could be maintained, he said.

“Now we can look at how we can make $1.1 million work toward achieving what a lot of people want, which is preserving as much of the buildings as they can,” Farr said.

The first grant, worth $850,000, is available under the Hamilton Heritage Property Investment Grant Program, which is for buildings designated under the heritage act that have had preservation/conservation/stability work.

If the buildings aren’t demolished, the developers will also be eligible for $250,000 under the Gore Building Improvement Grant program.

Blanchard said his group is looking for more financial incentives. The demolition permit expires in July, and each day the buildings sit there, it costs him money.

As it stands, he said, the buildings are in such poor shape that “we have nothing to attach to the façade right now.”

With files from Julia Chapman