Quirky landmark will meet the wrecker’s ball
September 10, 2010 | mdalton | The Record | LINK
Quote:KITCHENER — A regal, quirky landmark that has stood watch on Queen Street for more than 80 years will soon be no more.
City council has approved the demolition of Barra Castle after a developer’s attempt to save the front section of the deteriorating building proved too costly.
“Unfortunately, what we found when we started ripping out the walls and some of the stucco and plaster was the building was in poorer condition than we thought,” said Paul Puopolo, the developer who bought the old apartment block last year.
“We thought we could probably save it, and we realized we would probably have to spend some extra dollars, but the dollars and cents became too much.”
Restoring the 3,660-square-foot building would cost more than $1 million — double the price originally estimated — according to a heritage impact assessment completed this year.
Reconstructing the front portion of the building with modern materials would cost less than half that.
An independent review commissioned by the city confirmed the building is in a serious state of disrepair.
Repairing it would require working floor by floor to jack up the building to make repairs to partitions and load-bearing walls and injecting resin into cracks that compromised the foundation.
A city planning report on the proposed demolition acknowledges it would amount to a significant loss, but noted “the refusal of the request for demolition is unreasonable.”
The demolition was endorsed by Heritage Kitchener at an August committee meeting.
Heritage committee chair Kerry Kirby said the vote was split and he did not support the demolition.
“I hate to see this thing go,” he said. “My job is to preserve the heritage and culture of the city of Kitchener. If a developer wants to develop, then let him develop and spend those costs. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it goes.”
The committee, which advises council, was “caught in between” when the city-commissioned study came to similar conclusions as the developer about the extent of the damage and the cost to restore, he said.
Barra Castle, built in 1930 by Molly Marquette, was designed to resemble a Russian castle where she lived as a child. It was originally used as a residence. Later, rental apartments were added as additions on the back.
The last tenants were evicted in 2007 after inspectors found serious fire and electrical code violations. The power and gas to the building were ordered shut off.
The now-derelict building is the source of local legends — including the story that Marquette’s son built airplanes in the basement and that Marquette herself dug the foundation despite only having one leg.
A 2009 heritage assessment describes the castle as having “an eccentric history to match its bizarre architecture.”
That assessment, based on an initial structural review, found there was significant damage to the building, but recommended restoring the front section, deemed to be of very high historical value, while demolishing the less significant additions.
Puopolo started work on those plans and demolished the additions, but once workers started removing the castle’s interior finishings, they found that years of neglect and structural deficiencies had taken too great a toll.
“Some of it was weather-related conditions ... but also poor workmanship originally by the owner. It wouldn’t pass today’s code,” he said.
Even if it were possible to restore the building, only about 40 or 50 per cent of the original structure would be left, he said.
He said the plan now is to duplicate the building with new materials, incorporate some of the old materials and salvaged artifacts into a new building or start again with a more contemporary structure.
The building sits in the city’s Victoria Park Heritage Conservation District and any new building would need to meet district heritage criteria.
IMO, a waste of great downtown real estate.
I would really like to see a mixed use project here with larger dose of creativity. Queen st has pretty solid transit service, downtown and has a lot of potential if the few available sites are redeveloped with the future in mind.
Overall this is not the worst proposal that could have been put forth but in my opinion there is a long way to go before this was optimal. Really hoping Polocorp goes back to the drawing board again.
It's also a bit of challenge due to its location in a historic neighborhood.
It would be nice to see Kitchener's Queen Street to take on a similar "flavour" as Toronto's Queen Street! I know we don't have the density of buildings on Queen here in Kitchener, but I like the idea of Kitchener having a funky district - free range Hipsters - so to speak.
That's what King St E and Market Village are for, no?
panamaniac Wrote:That's what King St E and Market Village are for, no?
Second that!. Didn't the folks that started Yeti Café migrated from Toronto?
Also Queen St. and other hipsters hang-outs in Toronto are not what they used to be. Most have transitioned or are transitioning to high-rent with corporate and franchised tenants.
panamaniac Wrote:That's what King St E and Market Village are for, no?
That area never really struck me as having that vibe. Maybe it's the subtle difference between "Hippies" and "Hipsters" - being one of those groups has disposable income - it's not cheap to be a Hipster.
No, it certainly doesn't have that vibe (nor has it ever). I was just implying that it should evolve so that it indeed does have that vibe - the potential is there even if it's not being met at present.
Raises a question, however. Where does Kitchener-Waterloo's hipster hang out? He must feel a bit frustrated sometimes!
panamaniac Wrote:Raises a question, however. Where does Kitchener-Waterloo's hipster hang out? He must feel a bit frustrated sometimes!
Hipster is a really odd term for a type of person, given that few would call themselves one. It really doesn't mean very much.
That said, the answer is DVLB.
The big hipster hangouts are DVLB, Pyrus Cafe, and Yeti Cafe. Beer-snob hipsters will also be found in high concentrations at Imbibe.
I'm disappointed that the Barra Castle site has to contend with a monstrous setback requirement that severely restricts the possibility of making the area more Urban/Mixed-Use. Perhaps the huge setbacks were consolidated, and turned into a park it would be a nice addition to the neighbourhood, but it still has to be traversed by driveways, as Benton St objects to handling the traffic of new development.
Is there any news on this one? Seems like its at a bit of a standstill. Haven't even seen any sales campaign.
(10-02-2014, 02:42 PM)Spokes Wrote: Is there any news on this one? Seems like its at a bit of a standstill. Haven't even seen any sales campaign.
Back in May (I think) I attended a public consultation meeting on the zoning change/ consolidation of the lots. About 3-4 weeks ago I got a letter from the City indicating the next scheduled meeting was cancelled at the request of the developer.
Back in May, they were undecided as to whether to make it a condo or an apartment. Based on the design it would probably be an apartment.
Polocorp, the developer, is also involved in the Fusion Homes proposal near the market district I believe.
They are indeed involved with the Fusion project.
I wonder if the cancellation of the meeting means the project is up in the air?