Council offered more details on MacDonald and Hyatt preservation efforts

The Gray-Hyatt House. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)



As the structures have been spared a wrecking ball until September 15 at the earliest, County Council was provided more in-depth information concerning efforts to save a restore two historic houses at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

At Tuesday’s regular council meeting, Philip Evans, Principal of ERA Architects presented more detailed information regarding the vision and planning for the Hyatt and MacDonald houses.

Evans said many years ago, the organization began investigating the value of rural buildings in order to explore alternative economic models to leverage cultural assets that they had – many of which were based on natural resource based economies in a state of transition, he said.

The Macdonald House. (Desirée Decoste/Gazette Staff)

“These buildings are not far-gone enough for us to just walk away from. We are still interested in participating and bringing forward a financial model,” Evans explained.

The plan would be to do an assessment of the two buildings, bring offers forward and ask the municipality to accept them along with Ontario Parks.

“I would think a partnership or agreement between the ministry, the municipality and myself on behalf of investor groups, I would very much appreciate any cooperation and contribution that anyone is interested in taking part in,” he said. “These are sites that are reflective of the evolution of this community, reflecting its industry, its culture and its value is pretty extraordinary.”

Councillors Kate MacNaughton and Jamie Forrester both asked Evans to be more specific on a particular vision for the sites and who potential investor groups are.

Although Evans did not reveal names at this point, he said there are three parties interested in investing in the sites.

“These sites would be great as a complement to much of the tourism and community building that has happened in the County of late,” he said. “I have done work in the County with different people and one of the parties certainly already exists and operates within the County. These would be operators that would understand the value of places and how to leverage that. It would probably include community programming. They would be financially-sustaining organizations that would be part of what it is to build a cultural economy.”

Evans said the investor groups operate In the “realm of short-term accommodation and the various forms that it does offer that would be the general category of each of the three investors.”

As for the future of the two properties, Evans said the intention is to fix the buildings up in the footprint they currently exist in and not to add any additional gross floor area to the buildings. He said as the sites operated as lodging for many years, it would be ideal to maintain that use.

“Explicitly, these investors describe the vision that could be part of their evaluation; it’s not about development. It’s about committing to a model to steward these buildings on their lands that would be appropriate and through that negotiation I would expect the municipality would have interest and expectations, and the ministry would inform that expectation as well,” Evans said.

The deputation by Philip Evans was received by council.

On Monday, Heritage Architect Edwin Rowse confirmed any demolition plans have been put off until Sept. 15 at the earliest after Division Court Judge David Corbett agreed to a Judicial Review between proponents looking to restore the homes built in the mid 1800’s and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“An important result of setting a date for the judicial review is the Government’s lawyer has given me an assurance that there is no question of the houses  being demolish until after September 15,” Rowse told the Gazette.

-With files from Jason Parks, Gazette Staff