Nova Scotia

Amherst heritage building unlikely to get reprieve from destruction

A historic Amherst building, built of the region's famous red sand, will be lost to the town if money can't be found to repair it.

Heritage group hopes to try to come up with a plan to save historic BMO building downtown

Amherst town council has voted to demolish the former Bank of Montreal building, a landmark in downtown. (CBC)

A historic Amherst building, built of the region's famous red sand, will be lost to the town if money can't be found to repair it.

Known as the BMO building — even though the bank moved out in the 1920s — the downtown building on the corner of Victoria and LaPlanche streets was most recently the home of the Amherst Police Department until the building was condemned in the 1990s.

Five years ago, the town acquired it in a tax sale. The plan now is to tear it down.

"We wanted to have the roof repaired and the contractor refused to go on the roof for safety reasons. So that's the point when you have to make the tough decision," Rob Small, the mayor of Amherst, said Tuesday.

Before the building can be torn down, the province must pull its heritage designation.

Heritage group hopes for last-minute reprieve

That could happen next month unless someone steps up with a business plan. Demolition could begin by Christmas.

The Nova Scotia Heritage Trust will sit down with the town, to try to give it one last shot.

Amherst Mayor Rob Small says the BMO building in the town's downtown will be demolished if money can't be found to repair it. (CBC)

"We don't have a special pool of funds that we can tap into to save buildings. What we do have is friends and supporters and in the past, we have canvassed them for support for specific projects," spokesman Joe Ballard said. 

The mayor figures it will cost $500,000 just to bring the building up to code, and reinstall the plumbing and electricity.

Amherst residents will be sad to see it go.

"I wondered why no one has guilted the Bank of Montreal into saving their building. It's known as the Bank of Montreal,  you'd think that they'd put up some kind of grant or something to save their name," John Servedio said.

No help from Bank of Montreal 

The mayor says he tried that.

The building is little more than a stone shell after the former owner gutted it of plumbing, electrical and heating systems. (Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage)

He wrote BMO with this pitch: "How about reinvesting in this property to make it part of our heritage and Bank of Montreal's heritage?"

He said there was no response from the Bank of Montreal. 

The demolition is just one of the challenges facing downtown Amherst. Scotiabank is vacating another building in a matter of weeks. And Dayle's, the long-time anchor department store, will close in January.

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