Belle Vue

Town receives $100,000 grant for Belle Vue roof

 

By RTT Staff

The Town of Amherstburg will be receiving funding of up to $100,000 from Parks Canada towards the conservation of Belle Vue National Historic Site of Canada.

The town stated the funds, which come from Parks Canada’s National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places, are slated for Belle Vue’s roof restoration.

An employee from Robertson Restoration works on the roof at Belle Vue. (Photo by Paul Hertel/Belle Vue Conservancy)

The town announced the grant via a press release issued Tuesday morning.

Robertson Restoration was awarded the tender bid and has begun the refurbishment. The house dates back to 1816 with the roof made of copper and cedar shingles.

The roof project is estimated at $283,400 which includes architectural consultation and drawings.

The remainder of funds have been raised by the Belle Vue Conservancy. For more information on that group, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com.

“Belle Vue is an important symbol of Canada’s identity and traditions, says CAO John Miceli. “Conserving this treasured place benefits not only the immediate community, but all Canadians.”

 

Questions and tempers raised as fundraising expenditure discussed

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A question over an accounts payable to the Crown Park Corporation that was labelled for Belle Vue fundraising sparked a contentious debate Monday night.

Town council allowed Michael Prue, treasurer of the Belle Vue Conservancy, to speak and Prue questioned a few Belle Vue related expenses, with most of them being connected to the ongoing roof construction. When he got to the line about the Crown Park Corporation, he expressed curiosity and told council “we don’t pay for any fundraising.”

CAO John Miceli, after conferring with treasurer Justin Rousseau, said it was not actually for the Belle Vue fundraising but rather a planning study for the Amherstburg Community Foundation for fundraising efforts for all town initiatives.

Miceli said the study looks at raising money for town endeavors without having to rely on going to the taxpayers. A $6,000 payment was listed under the accounts payable section but the CAO indicated it was a $12,000 report.

“There are two payments of $6,000 to tell us how to fundraise?” asked Councillor Jason Lavigne, who also wanted to know who is on the foundation, when they meet and whether council can see minutes of their meetings.

Rousseau indicated the Amherstburg Community Foundation is a “holding account” and that money is reimbursed by the foundation for any cheques the town cuts. He said taxpayer money wasn’t used on the study.

“Who supported the $12,000 is the question,” Lavigne pressed. “Who paid the $12,000 for the study? I think we all want to know.”

Miceli said there are efforts being made to “accelerate” fundraising and that now “we have a study that will help us.” He said that funds raised by the foundation may be used for Belle Vue but research has shown that not all donors want to donate to Belle Vue and those donors may want to give funds to other projects.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said both himself and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale sit on the foundation.

Councillor Diane Pouget wondered if Crown Park Corporation had been hired by the foundation and Miceli said the foundation hadn’t hired anyone. The study was done in order to raise more money for the foundation, with the CAO adding the Belle Vue Conservancy has done a “great job raising money” but other avenues wanted to be explored by the foundation.

Prue emphasized he spoke up because he didn’t understand the fundraising expenditure.

“We’re fundraising for nothing,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he recalled getting updates when the Libro Centre was being built on the fundraising process.

Pouget said she called earlier Monday and was told by Rousseau it was for Belle Vue, and was upset with the responses she was getting at the meeting.

“I expect the treasurer to tell us the truth,” she said. “I am asking on behalf of the constituents.”
Rousseau said he had yet to review the document, and gave Pouget the most accurate information he had when she called.

“I gave you the best information I had this morning,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “If that has fallen short, I apologize.”

Administration is expected to give council more details on the matter at an upcoming meeting.

More ideas come in on what to do with the Belle Vue property

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

More ideas have been floated as the town held a second public meeting on what to do with the Belle Vue property.

About 25 people attended last Tuesday night’s meeting at the Libro Centre with more people from the general public attending this meeting than the first one held seven days earlier.

Similar to the May 29 meeting, attendees were told that as of May 31, the Belle Vue Conservancy had raised $210,000 in cash, had nearly $18,000 in in-kind contributions and another $65,000 in future cash pledges.

“We are starting phase one, which is the repairing of the roof,” said CAO John Miceli. “We’re trying to make it water-tight.”

Miceli praised the conservancy, stating they have done a good job raising money. Renderings depicts such things as gardens, brick pathways, a greenhouse, conference meeting centre, lighting, a bandshell and other amenities but the door has been left open for other ideas. Miceli said nothing has been adopted by council.

“It is an incredible property to be placed here in Amherstburg,” said Miceli. “We took a blank canvas and created something our community could enjoy as well as our region.”

Historian Robert Honor, who is also a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy, gave a history of the 200-year-old home from the time it was built by Robert Reynolds in 1816-19 through its various private owners, to its time as a veterans’ home and then as St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church. The church sold the property in 2000. The town bought it in 2016.

“Belle Vue seems to tell a story of people starting new adventures,” said Honor. “Belle Vue might be considered a symbol of new beginnings and new prosperity.”
Honor added that “as we speak, we are also part of the process of new beginnings as we discuss the future of Belle Vue.”

One of the renderings shown at the two recent public meetings shows the elevations of the historic building once Belle Vue is restored.

John McDonald said the fundraising process could be assisted if people could use the grounds. He suggested teaming with the Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society to spruce up the nine-acre site, with the first priority being to put in trees.

Use of the property could “build public momentum,” McDonald said, adding that such things as church picnics could be held on the grounds under a permit system.

The chief administrative officer replied that there are currently liability issues with Belle Vue as the site needs to be graded to make it safer. He did note that it is in the parks master plan. There is also no irrigation on the grounds to help water any plant materials at the current time.

The greenhouse that is proposed would allow the town to grown and maintain its own plant materials, he envisioned.

Councillor Leo Meloche spoke on the conference centre idea with Miceli indicating that the historic building could house smaller conferences while larger conferences could be held in a new building that could be built behind the home.

Meloche added the parks and gardens will take Belle Vue “to another level” but was hoping for minimal operating costs to run it, also hoping that would be self-sustaining.

Bob Rozankovic questioned whether the site could be self-sustaining with Miceli responding that the town would seek partnerships in running the site. He was confident it would be cost-neutral, envisioning that Belle Vue would be a destination that people from the region would want to book and attend.

A proposed look at what the Belle Vue property would look like.

Miceli added that a business model would have to be built but emphasized his belief Belle Vue could become a popular place in Amherstburg for residents and visitors alike.

“It’s a unique venue,” said Miceli. “There’s nothing like it.”

The CAO added it is “a totally different look and feel” than Willistead Manor in Windsor and believed there would be more amenities should Belle Vue be restored.

Treasurer Justin Rousseau agreed that there could be “a lot of uptake for bookings” at a restored Belle Vue and “that type of revenue stream” and that type of revenue could prove fruitful for the town.

Using the home as a bed and breakfast was floated but Miceli said they would have to work with a private operator to run it, should the town want to go in that direction. He said there could be an announcement soon as it relates to a hotel coming to Amherstburg.

Marc Renaud said relationships have to be built with the community to help get the site restored. He said the ongoing roof replacement shows there is activity at the site.

“It’s about donor. Money that will make the place run,” he said.

As for a timeline, Miceli said that is tough to give since the restoration depends on fundraising dollars. Should donors step up and grants come in, the actual construction process could take 18 months to three years on the home itself while the grounds could take approximately eight months to complete, according to the CAO.

Miceli said news about a federal grant could be coming soon.

“We are applying to every opportunity that comes along,” he said.

Paul Hertel, another member of the conservancy, recalled being on town council when King’s Navy Yard Park was created. He believed it is now a reflection of the community’s desire for growth, and that Belle Vue could turn into the same thing.

“I feel Amherstburg has great potential and energy to grow,” he said. “It takes a whole community to raise its collective conscience of who we are and the space we are blessed to occupy. I have great faith the process will be successful. It’s not a one-term project. It’s a life journey.”

An image of what a restored Belle Vue would look like, according to renderings by Architectura.

Miceli said the Belle Vue project and the project proposed for the Duffy’s property are among the most exciting he has dealt with in his 28-year municipal career.

“They are game-changers for the town,” he said.

The Belle Vue Conservancy’s next fundraiser is “All That Jazz for Belle Vue,” which is an event that includes a dinner and a show. It’s planned for June 25 at the Artisan Grill. Tickets are $80 per person and are available at the Artisan Grill, Amherstburg Freedom Museum or by calling Shirley Curson-Prue at 519-736-6947. The entertainment includes Renee King-Jackson and her Fabulous Foursome. It runs from 6-10 p.m.

For more information on future events or on the Belle Vue Conservancy, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com. To donate, people can visit www.amherstburg.ca/donate.

Belle Vue is located at 525 Dalhousie St. in Amherstburg.

Ideas floated for what to do with the Belle Vue property

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg held the first of two public consultation meetings regarding the Belle Vue property last week with several ideas floated around on what to do with it.

About 20 people attended last Tuesday night’s meeting at the Libro Centre, many of whom are members of the Belle Vue Conservancy. The conservancy is fundraising for the restoration of the property that the town purchased in 2016.

Robert Honor, a local historian and member of the Belle Vue Conservancy, outlined the history of the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion from when it was built by the Reynolds family to its various private owners and its stints as a veterans’ home and as St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church.

Town treasurer Justin Rousseau said the conservancy has been busy with fundraisers since it was formed.

“There’s always a campaign going on,” he said.

An image of what a restored Belle Vue would look like, according to renderings by Architectura.

The money the Belle Vue Conservancy raises is then given to the Town of Amherstburg with Rousseau stating that cash donations as of last Tuesday’s meeting were at $210,000 with another $65,000 of committed contributions. There are also $18,000 in in-kind contributions for an overall total of $292,000.

“The fundraising efforts have been very good,” said Rousseau.

The fundraising has helped offset costs of the new roof that is currently being installed, he noted, adding the town is also working to find grant opportunities.

The meeting turned into a question-and-answer period with CAO John Miceli, with Miceli calling the roof “a great first step” in the restoration process.

“We’ve got really good momentum,” he said. “We don’t want to lose that.”

The CAO added “the conservancy has done a tremendous job raising money.”

Miceli called Belle Vue an important piece of the town’s tourism industry going forward.

“It is going to be one of the catalysts of the tourism industry. I strongly believe that,” he said.

A proposed look at what the Belle Vue property would look like.

A restored Belle Vue will not just benefit Amherstburg, Miceli continued, but will be a boost to the region as a whole.

“I view Belle Vue as a regional property,” he said. “It’s not just an Amherstburg property, it’s a regional property. It’s a property that belongs to the entire region.”

What the property is going to be used for is still open for debate, though Miceli said the main comments he has heard are to use the building as a conference centre.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be driven by the community,” stated Miceli.

The chief administrative officer envisioned Belle Vue as a “tremendous opportunity” and one that will surpass another property he was responsible for when he was the director of parks and recreation for the City of Windsor.

“In my opinion, it will blow Willistead (Manor) out of the water,” he boasted.

Michael Prue, treasurer of the Belle Vue Conservancy, spoke in favour of a conference centre concept. He said the home is in relatively close proximity to the town’s downtown core and believed a conference centre would be a draw for the community and bring economic development.

Other ideas included themed boardrooms on Belle Vue’s upper levels, having horse-drawn carriage rides at the site, a greenhouse so the town can grow its own plant materials and hold plant sales, a café with caterers on site to prepare food, a seniors’ home and some botanical gardens.

Miceli said he envisions transforming the garage into a kitchen facility.

The potential gardens that could go behind Belle Vue are depicted in this rendering.

“I just don’t think we should be doing that inside the home,” he said. “These are just my thoughts. You don’t have to agree with me.”

Anne Rota, manager of tourism and culture for the town, said her research shows that tall ships and botanical gardens are top attractions for visitors in North America.

Paul Hertel, whose work with the Belle Vue Conservancy has included research into its time as a veterans’ home, said he has no problem with the conference centre idea as long as the public interest is protected. He also said the proximity to Iler Creek could enhance eco-tourism in the area.

Hertel believed a refurbished Belle Vue would enhance the “southern gateway” to Amherstburg.

Historian Robert Honor speaks at a May 29 public meeting regarding potential uses for the Belle Vue property.

The town purchased the site for $1.1 million and a $200,000 donation receipt with the town paying $100,000 down and $200,000 per year over a five-year period on an interest-free mortgage. Cost estimates have ranged from $2-3 million to restore the building itself with restoration of the entire 8.6-acre property estimated at upwards of $9 million.

The second Belle Vue meeting is Tuesday, June 5 at 6 p.m., also at the Libro Centre

WSO presents “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance”

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A large crowd of music lovers came to Christ Anglican Church last Tuesday night to help raise funds towards the restoration of a 200-year-old mansion.

“Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance” was held with 118 attending and the event raising $6,650 for the Belle Vue Conservancy. The music was performed by the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO) under the direction of conductor Peter Wiebe and musical director Robert Franz. Baritone Adam Iannetta performed with the WSO at points during the concert.

“It’s a nice house,” said event chair Linda Jackson, as she scanned the crowd inside the Ramsay St. church.

Jackson, who oversees corporate outreach for the Belle Vue Conservancy, said they were pleased to partner with Christ Anglican Church for the second consecutive year and bring the WSO back to Amherstburg.

“(The concert) is in a wonderful venue,” she said. “Some of the bricks from Belle Vue built part of this church.”

A total of 118 people came out to the Belle Vue Conservancy’s “Music for Belle Vue’s Renaissance” held May 1 in conjunction with Christ Anglican Church and the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO).

This year is a milestone year for Belle Vue, Jackson pointed out, as the main portion of the building officially turns 200-years-old. The main block of the Dalhouise St. mansion was completed in 1818, she noted.

“We are celebrating Belle Vue’s 200th birthday,” Jackson explained.

The Belle Vue Conservancy said they appreciated the event sponsors, with Jackson stating the sponsors included Bornais Insurance, Families First Funeral Home and Scott Elliott and Mike Bezzoubkin from Amherstburg Chevrolet Buick GMC. The event also had support from local high schools, as Jackson said music students from both General Amherst High School and St. Thomas of Villanova volunteered.

Belle Vue will soon “get a facelift,” Jackson added, as work should begin soon on the new roof. Town council recently awarded a tender valued at $258,400 plus HST to Robertson Restoration.

The Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO), under the direction of conductor Peter Wiebe, performs May 1 at Christ Anglican Church.

The work will put Belle Vue in its “proper place as a 200-year-old national historic site” with Jackson also calling it “a national treasure within Windsor-Essex County.” The money is there for the roof, Jackson told the audience, and the next phase is currently being fundraised for.

“Now, it’s on to the windows,” said Jackson.

Jackson revealed that the town will be hosting public consultation sessions regarding Belle Vue May 29 and June 6 at the Libro Centre.

“The public is invited to come out and be part of Belle Vue’s restoration,” said Jackson. “Belle Vue truly belongs to all of us. We will open her doors again.”

The next fundraiser for Belle Vue is May 27, the Downton Abbey-themed “Rhododendron Garden Tea Party.” That event will feature 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. sittings in the King’s Navy Yard Park. Tickets are $30 each and people will also be able to view a garden dress display and participate in a costume contest for women, men and children.

Soloist Adam Domenico Iannetta sings as part of the concert.

Tickets are available at The Dalhousie Bistro, the Gordon House or Amherstburg Sobeys.

and online at www.eventbrite.ca/e/amherstburg-rhododendron-garden-tea-party-tickets-45659796681.

“The rhododendron gardens are one of the focal points of King’s Navy Yard Park each spring,” says Mayor Aldo DiCarlo. “We will be honored to welcome visitors with the new garden tea program. When the gardens are in full bloom, it’s an amazing spectacle and at this time of year, a great Mother’s Day gift idea!”

Rev. Bill Strang from Christ Anglican Church stated that Belle Vue isn’t the only place in Amherstburg that is two centuries old. He said Christ Anglican Church celebrates is 200th anniversary in 2019.

“We will be having a number of events next year,” said Strang.

For more information on the Belle Vue Conservancy, visit www.bellevueconservancy.com, “like” their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bellevueconservancy or “follow” them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Bellevuematters.