Monday, 14 July 2014

The Scott Furniture Block's last hurrah ? UPDATE

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, the Historical Buildings and Resources Committee of council will hear an application to de-list the Scott Furniture Company Building with an eye to demolishing it. It's a huge twist in the history of a building that just received a multi-million dollar restoration.

The ca. 1904 building has had a heck of a history. It survived two huge fires and over 30 years with one of the fugliest metal coverings ever put on a heritage building. (For more about its history, see my Winnipeg Downtown Places post.)

In 2010 a company called Space2Work, owned by Mark and Shelley Buleziuk, purchased it and began a multi-million dollar restoration, bringing the building and its fa├žade back to its former glory. After it reopened in 2012, it was listed as a Heritage Property by the city and won a Heritage Winnipeg Preservation Award.

Since that time, however, it has sat empty. In May 2014 the 272Main.com leasing website was taken down and it has disappeared from Space2Work's site as well. 

At the June 19, 2014 Historical Buildings and Resources Committee meeting, the owners applied to have the building de-listed, which is the first step in demolishing a heritage property. The matter was held over to the July 17, 2014 meeting, (this Thursday at 3 pm).

Former Scott Block

So, what went wrong ? I contacted Space2Work to confirm stories that I'd heard, but they did not repsond. Presumably they will all come up at Thursday's hearing.

What I have heard from a couple of different people is that the major issue is an error made during renovations. Too much concrete was poured on each floor making them too heavy. (Whether this is a fatal flaw or just one that will cost a lot of money to repair and the owners would prefer to demolish than fix is what I was hoping to ask them.)

The time would be right for someone with vacant property on that stretch of Main to act. In early July CentreVenture announced that they want to perform a makeover to the area.

UPDATE - JULY 17 2014

Late this afternoon, the Historical Buildings and Resources Committee met to discuss the owner's request to remove 272 Main Street from the city's Historical Resources List.

The item was introduced by a city staffer who said that during the renovations the reinforcement strategy for the building's floors failed due to "faulty workmanship" that made the building "currently unsafe to occupy." The owners are unable to sell the building with the current heritage listing, so are requesting that it be removed. (Note that the "d" word - demolish - was not used, though once de-listed the owners would be free to do what they wanted.)

The owners, who were not in attendance, provided the committee with two engineering reports to support their claims about the condition of the building and what needed to be done to make it safe again. Reports that members of the public could not hear about.


Despite this being the newly revamped heritage committee that now meets in public in order to be more "open and transparent", as chairman Jenny Gerbasi noted in her welcoming remarks, the gallery was cleared so that the reports could be discussed in-camera. When pressed, Gerbasi said that this was at the request of the owner, as the content of the reports are part of a legal action. She also noted the clause in the in-camera bylaw that allows for this when legal action is underway. 

The gallery was pretty thin. A reporter, me and two representatives from Heritage Winnipeg, who were against the de-listing. To paraphrase HW's Executive Director Cindy Tugwell, there is nothing that has happened in the two years since the building was listed to lessen its heritage or architectural significance. Items such as an owner's cash flow, botched repairs etc. should not have any impact on a building's status.

After readmission, the committee discussed the application. They were in agreement that regardless of the renovation problems, the architectural significance or character defining elements that led to the building being added to the list in 2012 have not changed, nor would they be changed if the necessary repairs are made.

In the end, they voted unanimously to keep the building on the list of historical resources.

This does not mean the end for this application. The Historical Buildings and Resources Committee is a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Downtown Development, Heritage and Riverbank Management, to which the owners can appeal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So another building left to sit empty because it's "old". If it can't be used because it's not structurally sound,and repairs are going to cost more then it's worth,why not demolish it? Don't get me wrong,its a gorgeous building on the outside but there are far,far too many older buildings in Winnipeg that sit rotting because they are deemed "heritage".