New lease on life

Port El­gin vil­lage of­fice build­ing to be­come com­mu­nity hall


It’s out with the old and in with the new for the for­mer Port El­gin vil­lage of­fice build­ing.

Lo­cated on East Main Street, the struc­ture, which had housed the com­mu­ni­ties’ mu­nic­i­pal of­fice since the mid-1950s, had been va­cated in Au­gust 2017 when the vil­lage moved its busi­ness of­fice to the for­mer Ad­vance Sav­ings Credit Union on Main Street.

The old three-storey build­ing was built around 1910 by lo­cal busi­ness­man Fred Magee and served as the busi­ness head­quar­ters for Fred Magee Ltd., a can­ning and fish pro­cess­ing busi­ness in the vil­lage. Over the years an ex­ten­sion was con­structed at the rear of the build­ing and used as a base for the vil­lage’s fire de­part­ment un­til the open­ing of a new fire sta­tion nearby, ear­lier this year.

For about 60 years, un­til Au­gust 2017, the Port El­gin Pub­lic Li­brary was also housed within the build­ing and plans are cur­rently un­der­way to re­lo­cate the li­brary to Port El­gin Re­gional School.

A re­cent new res­i­dent to Cape Tor­men­tine, Kerry Phibbs, pur­chased the old vil­lage of­fice just over a month ago, af­ter check­ing it out ear­lier this fall.

“My wife and I were driv­ing through the vil­lage and no­ticed the build­ing and that it was for sale. Later, when we walked through it we thought it was pretty neat, we just fell in love with it. There’s a lot of work to do, for sure, but the old hall (lo­cated on the sec­ond floor) is in pretty good shape. It could be used for things like Girl Guides, karate classes, maybe movie nights… we’d like to see it be­come a com­mu­nity hall and used for all sorts of events and ac­tiv­i­ties,” Phibbs said in a tele­phone in­ter­view last week.

As for the re­main­der of the build­ing, he noted they may open a small cof­fee shop in the front and are con­sid­er­ing hold­ing var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties such as paint nights or med­i­ta­tion ses­sions, among other ideas, but are still un­sure what the fu­ture might hold for the old li­brary por­tion at the rear.

“We’re not sure, we may wait and see what the lo­cal peo­ple see what might be needed in the vil­lage. It’s a pretty big build­ing – about 5,000 square feet – there’s lots of space to do other things. The third floor is only par­tially fin­ished and we might turn that ei­ther into an apart­ment or maybe an Airbnb, what­ever would be most used,” Phibbs said.

Phibbs and his wife Christina Mor­ri­son re­lo­cated from the Muskoka re­gion of On­tario, about two hours north of Toronto, when they pur­chased their cur­rent home in Cape Tor­men­tine in July of this year.

“We had ac­tu­ally bought a cot- tage the year be­fore and spent the sum­mer here last year, and we just fell in love with the area and the peo­ple – and we love the wa­ter. Where we’re from, the pop­u­la­tion is about 15,000 in the re­gion, we’re not used to liv­ing in the city, so re­ally be­ing in a ru­ral area isn’t much dif­fer­ent for us,” he noted.

Phibbs, who is self-em­ployed in the heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing busi­ness in Muskoka, said he is cur­rently trav­el­ling back and forth from On­tario to New Brunswick while Christina and their two young chil­dren re­main in Cape Tor­men­tine.

“The kids are go­ing to school in Port El­gin, we’ve all made friends here so ev­ery­thing is go­ing pretty well,” he said.

Phibbs down­played con­cerns that the old vil­lage hall build­ing is con­tam­i­nated with mould, adding sub­se­quent test­ing has shown there is not nearly as much mould as was first thought to be.

“Most of the mould prob­lem is con­tained in the base­ment and we plan to get it prop­erly cleaned … I’m in heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion so we’ll get a good ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem put in there … and get the place cleaned up well,” he said.

Phibbs said they are hop­ing to get in­put from lo­cal res­i­dents as to other ways the build­ings may be used.

“We’ve been told there’s not a lot of ac­tiv­i­ties for kids and I’m sure there are a mil­lion ideas out there, but we re­ally hope peo­ple will con­tact us with their ideas,” he said.

Phibbs has cre­ated a ` page – Port El­gin Com­mu­nity Hall – so peo­ple can share their ideas, ei­ther in the pub­lic venue or by send­ing a pri­vate mes­sage.


The for­mer Port El­gin vil­lage of­fice build­ing was re­cently sold and the own­ers are plan­ning to use it as a com­mu­nity hall. They are hop­ing lo­cal res­i­dents will con­tact them with ideas for events and ac­tiv­i­ties.

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