Restor­ing Cook Res­i­dence would cost $2.5M: owner

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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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