Gord Freeman

Belle Vue plans discussed at public consultation meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A public consultation meeting held to discuss plans for the 200-year-old Belle Vue property saw the bulk of the discussion be on what surrounds the mansion rather than the mansion itself.

The meeting was held last Thursday night at the Libro Centre, following a separate public meeting on the Duffy’s property. The number of general public in attendance rivaled that of actual Belle Vue Conservancy members in the audience but that didn’t stop visions and ideas from floating around during the meeting.

CAO John Miceli said the town has made up concept drawings for the home and its seven-acre Dalhousie St. site but told the audience the town still wanted feedback. The concept plans call for a restored home that could be used for such things as a conference centre, outdoor gardens and lighted walking trails, a greenhouse, parking areas and a band shell.

David May takes a look at one of the renderings of what a restored Belle Vue property could look like.

David May takes a look at one of the renderings of what a restored Belle Vue property could look like.

“It’s a vision of what we thought we were going to do and what we could do but it is not etched in stone,” said Miceli.

There is a heritage designation on the facade of the building but not on the interior, but Miceli indicated that doesn’t preclude the town from trying to save portions of the interior. Architect Carmen Brunone from Architecttura Inc. pointed out that due to the numerous renovations Belle Vue has gone through in its 200-year history, a period of time had to be chosen for when the Belle Vue will be restored to. The building will look like it did in the 1920’s, he added.

“Our goal is to reproduce what is there,” added Miceli.

The town has applied for a Parks Canada grant that applies to heritage sites and due to the site having been in the top ten for endangered historical sites in Canada, Miceli believes that will lend support to the town’s grant application. The town hopes for $1 million with the Belle Vue Conservancy planning to raise another $1 million so that work on the building can be done in a substantial fashion. The overall plan, including grounds, could top $9 million.

An architecutrual rendering of the rear of the Belle Vue property, complete with revamped gardens, is shown here. The gardens were one of the items of discussion at a public meeting last Thursday night.

An architecutrual rendering of the rear of the Belle Vue property, complete with revamped gardens, is shown here. The gardens were one of the items of discussion at a public meeting last Thursday night.

“I’m encouraged to know we are probably going to know by September (about the grant),” the CAO stated. “I’m very hopeful. It is a logical choice but I don’t know what the federal government is going to do.”

Miceli added he “feels very strongly it’s going to happen.”

A suggestion to use St. Clair College students to help maintain the site was made, with Miceli adding the town has a good relationship with the college. A deal to have St. Clair College purchase the site fell through over a year ago and Miceli said the college has now gone in a different direction.

“We’re definitely going to be knocking on every door and looking at every opportunity we can get,” said Miceli.

As for the gardens, Miceli said his vision is for period gardens with Brunone adding his view that themed gardens could be placed there.

Miceli added he would like to see an entry point to Belle Vue created off of Sandwich St. S. as opposed to Dalhousie St., due to Sandwich St. being the main thoroughfare.

“We do not want to run traffic down the residential area of Dalhousie St.,” he said.

Conservancy vice president Carolyn Davies suggested a tie in with the Fort Covington property just south of the police station.

An architectural rendering of what the front of a restored Belle Vue could look like. (Special to the RTT)

An architectural rendering of what the front of a restored Belle Vue could look like. (Special to the RTT)

“I think this rivals Willistead (Manor in Windsor),” said local resident Gord Freeman.

Freeman envisioned the first floor as a conference centre with a restaurant on the second floor to support that.

“I think it’s an ideal set up for that,” said Freeman.

Family gatherings and weddings could also be held at a restored Belle Vue, Freeman continued.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “It’s a jewel. This would be at one end of town and Fort Malden at the other.”

More public meetings are planned for later this year, Miceli stated, as he said “we want to make sure we get it right.”

The town is in the midst of trying to win $60,000 through the National Trust for Canada’s contest found at www.thisplacematters.ca with the Belle Vue Conservancy also raising funds through events and the site www.amherstburg.ca/donate.