Heritage property in limbo

Josh Pennell
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The fate of a St. John’s home built in the late 1840s remains unknown although it was clear at Monday’s regular council meeting that councillors have no appetite for the structure to be demolished.

St. John’s Coun. David Lane said Monday that a heritage property plan from developers submitted before development would save the city and the developers a lot of grief. — Photo by Josh Pennell/ The Telegram

Sitting on the corner of Old Topsail Road and Shaw Street and built after the fire of 1846, Richmond Cottage is recognized as one of the oldest buildings in the city.

A couple of homes were built on the 3.2 acres of land in 2011.

 Council gave Wrightland Development the green light to build those on the condition that the cottage be restored. An earlier application by the developer to demolish Richmond Cottage was retracted.

Coun. Tom Hann, chairman of the planning and housing committee, said there was no active application to demolish the house at the moment, but the historic home has also been in a static state for some time.

“We also acknowledge we do not have an active application to deal with this property at this time,” said Hann.

The one thing that could be said was that nobody on council had any great will to see the home destroyed.

“I think they recognize that they’re going to have to develop a plan to refurbish the property,” Hann said of the developer.

Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth was not promoting the home’s demolition either, but he did question exactly what was being saved. He questioned how much of the house was going to be saved and if the developer was going to be allowed to remove essentially the majority of what stands there now, just keeping the original exterior wall in the name of heritage.

“I’m not really sure what the heritage value left to Richmond Cottage is once this is done and why it’s such a concern about them demolishing the exterior wall, which nobody is going to see anyway,” he said.

If it’s the heritage council wants to protect then that’s what council should protect, said Ellsworth.

Coun. Hann said once the developer understood there wasn’t any chance council was going to cheer on the wrecking ball, Wrightland Development said it would have another look at the options. Refurbishing is a very costly venture, Hann said. Once the developer figures out how and what it wants to do, the plan will come before the heritage advisory committee again and the committee will then make its recommendations to council.

It’s been several years since Wrightland Development took over the property. Richmond Cottage has sat intact, but also unprotected since. Coun. David Lane agreed with a proposal of the heritage advisory committee that under similar circumstances in the future, a plan for a heritage property should be made before development of attached land is granted.

“I think that would alleviate a lot of frustration on behalf of both parties — both the developer and the city,” he said.

Coun. Hann couldn’t give a time for when a plan for Richmond Cottage would be received from the developer.

Geographic location: Richmond Cottage, Old Topsail Road, Shaw Street

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Recent comments

  • OldMAn
    October 29, 2013 - 07:35

    This house has been vacated for a long time. It's literally just rotting away. Let the Dev knock it down and build a replica there. Like any house in NL that is 100+ years old, restoring will mean ripping the building to the studs then rebuilding. What historical value will this have? I say, preserve whatever historical value this house has by rebuilding, stop wasting peoples time and money by arguing against every single little development.