New Brunswick

Fredericton reaches deal to save historic York House

Three city motions, five Fredericton properties and one very complicated deal have saved a 114-year-old historic building from the wrecking ball.

Three city motions, five Fredericton properties and one very complicated deal have saved a 114-year-old historic building from the wrecking ball.

Fredericton city council approved three motions on Wednesday night that will allow the city to purchase York House and keep the 1893 school building intact in the downtown core.

Mayor Brad Woodside said the last-minute deal to preserve the historic building proved so complicated that it was "a miracle" an agreement was reached.

"Any little piece missing would have meant that the deal wouldn't have been a deal," Woodside said. "So it was all very important that in the very end, the province came to the table, made their land available and that's really what made the deal and put it over the top."

York Houseisowned by the Brunswick Street Baptist Church, which announced in June that it would be tearing down the building to make space for new offices and classrooms.

Church administrators told the city they would consider not tearing down the building if a replacement property for their developments could be found near the church.

The building was designed by James C. Dumaresq, the same architect who designed the New Brunswick legislative building, and has served as a school, teachers' college, library and youth hostel before being purchased by the church in 1965.

City staff have been working since the summer to acquire the properties necessary to accommodate the church's request and save York House.

But the staff hit a stumbling block with a building owned by the Catholic Knights of Columbus, which was only willing to give up their nearby space if a land swap could be arranged.

The four members of provincial parliament that serve as representatives for the city came forward to ensure a property owned by the province was made available for swap with the Knights of Columbus, Woodside said.

In a five-property exchange, council agreed to purchase two properties on Brunswick Street for $437,500 from Capital Insurance Services Ltd. and remove the current buildings from the land.

It then approved a motion to construct a 240-square-metre building on Regent Street that will be given to the Knights of Columbus in exchange for their current hall on George Street. The provincial government, which owns the Regent Street lot and currently uses it as parking space, agreed to let the city acquire it.

Conversion into office space

A third motion approved handing over the Brunswick Street and George Street properties to the church to accommodate their expansion needs. The city will purchase York House from the church.

A complete financial breakdown of the transactions is not yet available.

"This is going to be one decision that this council's made and this staff has enabled us to make that we are going to be so proud of in the future," said the mayor.

"Future generations are going to look back and they're going to say, 'Wow, am I ever happy that building is there.' That's how important this issue was."

The city intends to convert the vacant building into municipal office space. It is estimated the renovations will cost between $1.5 million and $2 million.