Monday, June 15, 2015

Opportunity on King

Southside Group wants to demolish 183 King Street, built 1892. Not for any particular reason, mind you. According to Paul Hubert, Chair of London's Planning Committee, Southside has no stated plans for a replacement structure. And although empty, the Second Empire style building isn't falling down, isn't an eyesore, and just happens to be in the Downtown London Heritage Conservation District.

So here's an opportunity. An opportunity to create attractive offices, charming condos or apartments. An opportunity for a restaurant or night club to open on the ground floor. An opportunity for new residents, employees or visitors to drive through the old carriageway to park behind. An opportunity to inject some more life into this section of King Street. An opportunity for adaptive reuse, which is what a creative city does with its historic buildings.

I'd like to suggest a new heritage organization for London. One that attempts to connect buyers or tennants with appropriate heritage buildings so that the structures are used, not empty and deteriorating. An opportunity like this just shouldn't be missed.

Update, June 16: Southside, through their lawyer, is now suggesting a compromise in which the developer preserves "some heritage aspects" of the building while making room for a highrise. In other words, preserving the façade. Perhaps the carriageway could be the entrance to the underground parking garage? Or maybe they could paste some bricks on the outside of the new tower, making it reminiscent of the Talbot Block/Budweiser Centre?

Update, January 15, 2016: Developer Vito Frijia states 179-181 and 183 King constitute a "fire trap" that's "beyond repair." Sounds like he's been practicing demolition by neglect already. Since the city has told Frijia at least the façade should be preserved, he intends to take his case to the Ontario Municipal Board. The city wants additional heritage protection for the buildings, but that means a) saving the front 30% only, and b) if they're destroyed, they have to be "rebuilt." Rebuilt? Like Adam Beck's home? A "rebuilt" structure is no longer a heritage building. Why can't the developer just build in the parking lot next door?

Update, May 16, 2016: A city-requested engineering report states that the blue building, 179-181 King, is too run down to save. The report does not extend to 183 King next door.