Restoring Cook Residence would cost $2.5M: owner
The owner of a historic mansion on Albert Street argues it cannot be saved without spending $2.5 million to fix major structural problems.The city has received a demolition permit for the Cook Residence, a home built in 1929 in the Tudor Revival style. Carmen Lien, one of two people who bought the property in November, wants to tear it down and redevelop it into a new residential property.But Coun. Bob Hawkins said Wednesday that demolishing the house would be “nothing less than the wanton disregard of our city’s past and an offence to our city’s future.”“If this isn’t a heritage building, then there’s not a heritage building in our city,” said Hawkins, who represents the Lakeview neighbourhood where house is located.Lien previously ran for city council to represent the very same area. He was not at Wednesday’s Regina Planning Commission meeting, where commissioners unanimously voted to move toward designation.But Layne Arthur, an architect working with Lien on the project, told the commissioners that a restored Cook Residence would never sell for enough to justify the massive expense of fixing it. He said the tax exemptions the city could offer through its heritage program would cover less than four per cent of the restoration cost.“Heritage is important,” Arthur said. “But at the end of the day, economics and viability have their place as well.”He said there are cracks in the foundation and significant water migration. He connected the issues to 1956 renovations that gutted parts of the interior. He called it “unsafe.”Lien submitted a letter to the commission where he argued that, according to a recent building inspection, the home slopes from back to front due to sinking footings. He also pointed to electrical issues and a boiler past its life expectancy, with asbestos around its pipes. There is also evidence of rodents in the attic, Lien wrote.Added up, fixing all that would cost $2.5 million, according to a budget provided by Ledcor Construction.“The project is not feasible,” Lien wrote. “The cost involved would be at least twice the market value of the project once completed.”But some on the commission questioned the estimate, noting that Ledcor does not specialize in residential properties. One commissioner suggested that the timing of the estimate suggested that Lien wanted to demolish the Cook Residence from the very beginning.Hawkins asked Arthur what Lien is planning to build in its place, but seemed dissatisfied that he couldn’t get a specific answer. Arthur said it could be a single-family or multi-family residential building.City administration said Lien was fully informed that the Cook Residence was on the heritage holding list and thus could be subject to designation.The planning commission’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Jan. 28 city council meeting.If council votes the same way, a bylaw to designate the property would then be ready for a March vote. The demolition permit cannot be approved in the meantime.Lien could still object, sending the matter to a provincial review board.Hawkins noted that there was “massive support” for the heritage designation in the Lakeview neighbourhood.“It’s worth that investment ...” he said. “This is a home that’s worth preserving for our children and for their children.”Onlookers broke out in applause after Wednesday’s vote. Jackie Schmidt of Heritage Regina said neighbours will have to stay vigilant as the process continues.“We’re making sure we keep on this every step of the way,” she said.Arthur took the result stoically. “I knew it was going to be an uphill battle,” said Arthur. “We live in a democracy.”
Architect Layne Arthur has told city officials a restored Cook Residence would never sell for enough to justify the large expense of fixing it.
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