Saskatchewan

Advocates fight proposed demolition of Regina's historic Cook Residence

The owners of a 90-year-old Regina home want to tear it down. City administration has temporarily denied the demolition application and council will have to consider if it should be designated a municipal heritage property.

Current owners claim restoration would cost around $2.5M

The current owners of Regina's historic Cook Residence want the building demolished. (Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan)

The owners of Regina's 90-year-old Cook Residence want the building torn down, but a municipal heritage property designation could save the sprawling two-storey Tudor Revival-style home.

At Wednesday's Regina Planning Commission meeting, applause echoed through the hall after the commission voted to support the administration's recommendation to grant that heritage designation. 

The issue will now be put before council for a vote on Jan. 28, 2019.

Cook House was built in 1929 and sits tucked away from the road on the corner of Hill Avenue and Albert Street.

The sprawling two-storey building was designed by the architectural firm of Van Egmond & Storey. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)

City documents identify the owners as Carmen Lien and Adriana Gourgaris, who bought the home in November 2018. The city received a demolition permit application from Ledcor Construction, on Lien and Gourgaris's behalf, later that month.

City administration temporarily denied the application so council could decide whether to grant the heritage designation. 

Speak out before it's too late: Heritage Regina

Heritage Regina addressed the city in defence of the building's preservation and its history at Wednesday's planning commission meeting.

"The Cook House made it possible for the artist, the poet, the philosopher and people of science to apply their crafts and enhance everyday life," Heritage Regina president Jackie Schmidt wrote in a letter presented at Wednesday's meeting.

"This house employed woodworkers, stained glass artists, stonemasons, iron forgers, carpet weavers, boilermasters and countless other craftsmen practiced in what were then cutting‐edge technologies."

Schmidt said the home was meant to inspire dreams of what the neighborhood — and the city — could be.

She called on the public to speak out before it's too late.

"One of the things that I think people feel in the city is they don't know these things are happening," she said. "Then they get involved in the process after the decisions are made."

Planning commission supports designation 

Schmidt was joined by several others supporting the heritage status designation at the planning commission meeting.

Resident Lyn Goldman said she had "new faith in my city council by the discussion tonight."

She lives on Angus Street, right behind the "beautiful house," and said she cares deeply about the neighborhood. 

When asked about its potential demolition, she said it would be a "final blow for our city and its idea about heritage."

"I don't think the new owner has a case for tearing it down. I really don't," she said. 

"We live in Regina, with Regina's soil and we know our houses shift over the years, and as Coun. [Bob] Hawkins says, anybody moving into one of those houses knows that there will be work to be done." 

Character-defining elements of the Cook Residence highlighted in a report presented to the Regina Planning Commission. (City of Regina)

Coun. Hawkins, who sits on the planning commission, urged his fellow commissioners to support the heritage status recommendation.

"It matters to our past and it matters to our future," he said. "This is a home that's worth preserving for our children and for their children." 

Owner says restoration would cost $2.5M 

The home in question is currently on Regina's heritage holding bylaw list — something the owner did not know when he bought the home, according to architect Layne Arthur. 

He said he was speaking at Wednesday's meeting on the owner's behalf, because Lien was in Mexico. 

Arthur said an estimate indicated structural restoration of Cook Residence would cost about $2.5 million dollars. 

Heritage is important, but at the end of the day economics and viability have their place.- Layne Arthur, spokesperson for owner

He didn't directly answer what the owner planned to do with the property, but suggested it could be a single-family or multi-family residential building. 

However, he said the owners feel they can redevelop the property and "maintain the heritage integrity of the neighborhood."

"It's a story that we've heard a lot," said Schmidt. "People say they didn't know, or [restoration] cost an exorbitant amount. These are all things we've heard before."

City administration indicated it met with the owners to discuss plans and talk about "benefits provided under the city's Heritage Building Rehabilitation Program."

Arthur told the commission that tax exemptions would cover less than four per cent of restoration costs. 

"Heritage is important, but at the end of the day economics and viability have their place," he said. 

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