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.