Former Guelph mayor’s residence to be torn down for inexpensive housing
City council have given the go ahead for part of a heritage building in the west end of Guelph to be demolished to make way for affordable housing.
At a special meeting of council July 13, council voted 11-2 in favour of allowing the demolition of much of a heritage building at 50-60 Fife Rd. In its place will be 18 single-occupancy affordable housing units. Councillors Phil Allt and Leanne Caron voted against.
F.J Chadwick, elected Guelph’s mayor in 1877, was the initial owner of the soon-to-be demolished home at 50-60 Fife Rd. | Wellington County Museum and Archives
According to a report from city staff, the home had initially been occupied by F.J Chadwick, who would later be elected mayor of Guelph in 1877.
“It really is an awful building,” Howard Kennedy of UpBuilding! Non-Profit Homes told council of the soon-to-be demolished building.
“You wouldn’t want to live there, you wouldn’t want any friends or maybe even any enemies to live there. It’s old, it’s breaking, it breaks down, it’s cold, it’s windy, it’s damp. It’s … you name it. There’s a lot of things wrong with it.”
However, city staff say parts of the building’s tower — more specifically, the conical roof, slate shingles and wooden corbels — should be maintained.
Following a question from Coun. Mike Salisbury, city staff said the tower could be taken down and the heritage attributes of the tower could be used elsewhere on the property.
“I think the adaptive reuse of those elements in a stunning landscape feature would be really cool and an improvement,” the Ward 4 councillor said.
Heritage Guelph, the committee tasked with advising city council with all things related to the city’s heritage, says the entire tower should stay where it is.
“Protecting only the ‘heritage elements’ without the body that ties them together may provide a de facto opportunity to demolish the tower,” P. Brian Skerrett, the committee’s chair, wrote in a letter to council.
Kennedy said maintaining the tower where it is, and the costs associated with stabilizing and maintaining it, would mean “the affordable housing project is basically dead in the water,” and proposed retaining the parts of the tower deemed to have heritage value and reconstruct it elsewhere.
“And we provide some commemorative plaques, some sort of interpretive features so people can actually know and understand the history and the heritage of the building and the whole property itself,” he said.
Asked by Caron as to why the heritage building could not be retained and renovated, Kennedy said it would cost at least $1 million “back up to snuff,” and would provide five units as opposed to the 18 UpBuilding is looking to construct in its place.
Prior to the vote, Caron noted had the heritage building been properly maintained over the years, it would not have needed to be torn down, with extensions built on the old building as opposed to a whole new structure.
“I feel like this is just another case of demolition by neglect,” she said.
For Mayor Cam Guthrie, the vote in favour was a no-brainer.
“I think this should have just been pushed over and 18 affordable housing units should have been built,” he said.
“To me, there is no (heritage) attributes at all. I think no one hardly even knew this place even existed. I don’t really care that 100 years ago or whatever, the mayor of Guelph lived in this place. My house is certainly not going to be anything of snuff in the long term.”
In a follow up post on social media Thursday morning, Guthrie reiterated that while he sees heritage as important, housing is more important right now.