Heritage committee member requests heritage district while discussing Dalhousie St. building demolition request

 

 

Buildings at 274-278 Dalhousie St. were discussed as “properties of interest” at the March 3 town council meeting.

Buildings at 274-278 Dalhousie St. were discussed as “properties of interest” at the March 3 town council meeting.

By Ron Giofu

 

A member of the Amherstburg heritage committee is hoping town council revives plans to create a heritage district downtown after requests have been made to tear down three adjoining buildings.

Buildings at 274, 276 and 278 Dalhousie St. have been identified as “properties of interest,” said Marc Pillon, with Pillon noting the buildings at 276 and 278 date back to 1873 when they were built by Theodore J. Park. The building at 274 Dalhousie St. was built in 1903.

All the three buildings have “a consistent history” of having mixed residential and commercial uses, said Pillon.

Pillon said they are the “last examples of the wooden structures that once lined Dalhousie St.” and that they are an integral part of the historic streetscape and character of Amherstburg. He also outlined changes that have occurred in the area since the 1970s, including the moving of the Park House and the Gordon House, two buildings on lots just south of the current buildings in question being lost to demolition, and the fire of the Lakeshore Hotel.

The heritage committee member wondered what guarantees are in place to ensure the character of the street isn’t compromised and what the “overall vision” for building replacement and infill for the downtown core.

“If we do replace those buildings, will the new buildings have a large scale economic impact on the town or will it decrease the town’s potential as a tourist destination?” he asked, adding there are “very limited rules” governing what kinds of buildings could go there in the current buildings’ place.

“There are no tools to provide a clear vision or direction,” he contended.

A heritage district, added Pillon, would assist in protecting principal areas of interest and guide new development in a way that would respect the existing character of the area.

Town planner Rebecca Belanger said the town has policies in its Official Plan and zoning bylaws that identify the downtown Amherstburg area as the central business area with the policies requesting that new development respect the character of the area. Should the town proceed further with a heritage district, Belanger suggested a new round of open houses as it has been “a number of years” since open houses were held last.

Councillor Carolyn Davies, who sits on the heritage committee, believed that heritage districts attract tourists and that people search out towns and regions with designated heritage districts. Davies believes that helps act as an “economic engine” in the community.

Councillor Bob Pillon said the heritage committee, Marc Pillon included, had done their job but said the current buildings are not nice to look at and that if the town wants to move ahead, new development is required.

“Those buildings aren’t pleasing, I’m sorry,” he said.

Councillor Bart DiPasquale asked Marc Pillon about costs of a heritage district with the heritage committee member saying he couldn’t speak to costs.

“I’m unaware of any significant costs,” said Marc Pillon.

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