There has been interesting back and forth in the NG Times over the past couple of weeks about heritage buildings. Sometimes an old building is just an old building, especially when there are many more of the type across the province. But, when structures are vital to a community’s history, material culture, and social fabric, they deserve attention.
We, the citizens, council, and municipal staff, should be looking at creative ways to preserve our architectural and historic heritage. We don’t want to be selling our birthright for a mess of pottage, but should seek imaginative solutions to keep our building stock standing and in use. That does not mean all the financial burden must fall on the taxpayers in North Grenville.
Other municipalities have looked at adaptive reuse of buildings as a step to revitalizing the community. Adaptive reuse links procedures to plan for, inventory, acquire, manage and reuse surplus or abandoned real estate, which had a previous use no longer suitable in that type of building or location. The adaptive reuse can include purely aesthetic modifications made to the building, while retaining the structure and character. The potential value of the property will be maximized by adapting the space. (Burchell and Listokin, 1981 The adaptive reuse handbook: procedures to inventory, control, manage, and reemploy surplus municipal properties)
A decade ago, the Front of Yonge purchased the old carriage house in Mallorytown for less than market value to preserve the historic stage stop between Brockville and Kingston. As intended, the building now houses a museum, and office space for the historical society and Communities in Bloom. As I understand, the municipality covers the operation and maintenance of heat, hydro, and plumbing. All other costs, including structural upgrades, and the large garden with a bandstand, are borne by the tenants through a variety of seasonal festivals, weddings, concerts, and other fundraising activities. As available, the tenants apply for government grants.
The Mallorytown project, controversial at the outset, has won enthusiastic converts to this community social hub, and as an investment in economic development and cultural preservation. I have not made an argument for North Grenville to take this action with any municipal property, but to suggest one way to preserving our built heritage.
When a building goes, it is gone forever. We need no more vacant lots, nor infill suited to Merivale Road.