The Town has entered into a contract to demolish the former St. Andrews Lodge Building at 3319 Island Highway West. This decision was made by Council after considerable debate and exploration of the costs of renovating and repurposing the former lodge building. The former lodge building would have required extensive renovations and remediation to retain. From a financial perspective it is simply not viable to keep the lodge building when there are so many other community priorities.
“Although we must say goodbye to the Former St. Andrews Lodge, the Town will fully recognize the important role of Ms. Little and the Former St. Andrews Lodge Property in our Town’s history through installations on and off of the site. We certainly understand the emotion around this issue, however, the Town did follow an exhaustive process prior to making this difficult decision.” – Mayor on behalf of Council
Why did Council vote to demolish St. Andrews’s?
The decision was a result of a 16-month long public engagement process through which the community identified the top ten priorities for the future park site. The retention of the lodge was not one of the priorities. The priorities identified through the outreach process were as follows:
- Walking Trails
- Seating Nodes / Benches / Rest Areas
- Washroom / Change Room Building
- Outdoor Picnic Areas
- Covered Picnic / Gathering Shelter
- Pedestrian Crossing at Highway 19A
- Connection to the Existing Connector Trail
- Nature‐based Play Areas
- Improved Designated Beach Access Routes
- Open Lawn Areas (multi‐purpose use)
What process did the Town follow?
The Town followed an exhaustive process prior to making this difficult decision.
The Town purchased the waterfront property from the estate of Elizabeth Little for $3,400,000 in 2018. The plan was to turn it into a public waterfront park that includes pathways, improved beach access, viewpoints, signs and ways to engage with the site’s history. Developing a more detailed plan was the next step after purchasing the property.
- In 2019, the Town selected Lanarc Consultants to lead a comprehensive public consultation process to guide the future of this important Town-owned park. The two phases of public engagement lasted through the year and into the winter of 2019. On February 5, 2020 Council adopted the Concept Plan.
- The Town commissioned a feasibility study on the building, as recommended in the Concept Plan based on feedback during public consultation.
- Only July 23, 2020 the Town issued a Request for Proposals in hope of finding creative ways to repurpose the heritage building, either on or off site.
- The Town only received one proposal to reuse the building, and Council did not consider the proposal to be financially viable.
- On October 14, 2020, Council directed staff to proceed with relocation or demolition of the building.
What was the public feedback on the former lodge building?
The public feedback included two key phases. In Phase One of the park plan process, the majority of participants supported a feasibility study to look at preserving and reusing the lodge building. Public feedback communicated a general fondness for the historic character of the lodge building.
In Phase Two of the park plan process, the public explored the opportunities and constraints for retaining or removing the existing lodge building. The response from the workshop and online participants was split with a majority (57%) preferring to remove the lodge. Phase Two community participants also identified concerns about the cost of upgrading and renovating the existing building, as well as concerns about the operational costs vs. the benefit of what the building would provide for the community. The community ultimately identified the top ten priorities for the future park site and the retention of the lodge was not one of the priorities.
Even though the lodge was not identified as one of the top elements, in June of 2020, Council still directed staff to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit offers for relocating or repurposing the existing lodge. The Town did not receive any proposals from proponents wishing to relocate it. There were two community groups initially interested in retaining it, but unfortunately, one group withdrew and the other proposal depended entirely on grant funding. The grant funding would not be a guarantee and it would only be announced in June of 2021, which would leave the building to further decay and would delay the opening of this new park for yet another year. Further, the application would have diverted resources away from other strategic Town initiatives already underway, such as the East Village, turf field, new roundabouts, etc.
What would be required to keep the building?
On behalf of the Town, in March 2020, Ingleton Construction Management completed a report entitled “Feasibility Report for the Adaptive Use of St. Andrew’s Lodge Building”. Following are key points from the report:
- The upgrades in the assessment would keep the exterior of the building, other than basic repairs and paint, primarily in its original heritage form.
- Interior square footage of usable space is approximately 1,514 square ft. plus 72 sq. ft. of storage space.
- The estimated budget for work identified in the report was $545,000, not including engineering, architectural costs, major engineering seismic improvements, or other costs specifically excluded from the report but likely necessary for the project.
- Maintenance and operational costs for historical buildings is high, based on the Town’s experience as owner of a number of other heritage buildings.
- The building does not meet minimum Flood Construction Levels and would not meet the standards applied to new construction.
- The cost estimates did not include bringing the building into compliance for accessibility.
Did the Town try to save the building?
Yes, demolition of the building is a last resort. First, the Town issued an open Request for Proposals for anyone wishing to repurpose the lodge building, either on or off of the site. The Town did not receive any proposals from proponents wishing to relocate it, and only one from a community group wishing to retain it. That viability of that proposal depended on grant funding that would have diverted resources away from other strategic Town initiatives already underway, such as the East Village, turf field, roundabouts, etc.
Could a society have fixed up the building for less cost?
Unfortunately, given the lack of details of what was presented through the Request for Proposals process, the Town did not see enough evidence to give us the confidence that the project could be completed in a timely or cost-effective manner.
What if protesters block workers from demolishing the building?
Although the Town respects the right to peaceful demonstrations, workers and contractors also have a right to safe work spaces.
Luke Sales, MCIP, RPP
Director of Planning