His­toric Har­bour Grace court­house’s fu­ture

De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Works plan­ning to is­sue call for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est in com­ing weeks

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON ed­i­[email protected]­n­com­pass.ca

The his­toric court­house build­ing in Har­bour Grace could get a new owner, de­pend­ing on the out­come of an up­com­ing call for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est.

With the for­mer Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion Church in Har­bour Grace set to gain a new lease on life, some may won­der what the fu­ture holds for a his­toric stone struc­ture just around the cor­ner from it.

It’s been al­most three years since the court­house build­ing was last in use, with the ser­vices hav­ing moved to the Babb Build­ing at the be­gin­ning of 2016. In need of re­pairs to walls that are at risk of col­laps­ing in­ward, the provin­cial govern­ment has held on to the build­ing, but it ap­pears that may soon change. Built in 1830, it was the old­est pub­lic build­ing in use prior to clo­sure.

Re­spond­ing to an in­ter­view re­quest with Min­is­ter Steve Crocker to dis­cuss the 188-yearold struc­ture’s fu­ture, the De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Works did not make the min­is­ter avail­able to The Com­pass. How­ever, in a state­ment, the de­part­ment said an ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est for the prop­erty will be is­sued “in the com­ing weeks.”

The Com­pass con­tacted the de­part­ment af­ter ob­tain­ing in­for­ma­tion about the build­ing through ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion re­quests.

“The De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Works rec­og­nizes the value of the Har­bour Grace Court­house as a des­ig­nated Na­tional His­toric Site and we are ac­tively work­ing to fi­nal­ize a plan for its fu­ture that will ap­pro­pri­ately re­spect its her­itage and value to the com­mu­nity,” the de­part­ment said in a state­ment re­leased to The Com­pass Fri­day, Nov. 2.

Just down the road from the court­house, the for­mer Catholic cathe­dral is due to be trans­formed into a brew­ery, restau­rant, spa and ho­tel by its new own­ers, Craig Flynn and Brenda O’Reilly. Restora­tion work for that project is ex­pected to re­quire mil­lions of dol­lars.

It would seem the court­house is in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion. While there is not a known cost to ad­dress struc­tural con­cerns at the old court­house, govern­ment of­fi­cials have in the past sug­gested it would re­quire mil­lions.

The fu­ture

Does the fact the old church has found new bene­fac­tors give the court­house build­ing hope for a brighter fu­ture? Har­bour Grace Mayor Don Coombs be­lieves so.

“I’m look­ing at the glass half full, not half empty,” he told The Com­pass. “I see op­por­tu­nity com­ing from that.”

Har­bour Grace-Port de Grave MHA Pam Par­sons has even heard from par­ties in re­cent months who have ex­pressed an in­ter­est in ac­quir­ing the build­ing.

“Hav­ing some peo­ple ap­proach me, and these are re­cent con­ver­sa­tions I would say within this past month,” she said, adding po­ten­tial suit­ors will get a chance to look in­side the build­ing once the ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est is re­leased.

Much like the mayor, Par­sons views ac­tiv­ity down the road at the church as good news for the court­house’s fu­ture. She said the church, once work on it is com­pleted, will in­evitably bring peo­ple to Har­bour Grace.

“Per­son­ally, I think any eco­nomic devel­op­ment and ex­pan­sion in any area within our district is cer­tainly go­ing to be pos­i­tive and en­tic­ing for other peo­ple to come on board, es­pe­cially with re­gards to tourism,” she said.

Coombs said the town has kept in touch with Min­is­ter Crocker about the court­house. He ac­knowl­edged too in an ideal world, it would be a great mu­nic­i­pal build­ing. The pre­vi­ous coun­cil even went so far as to con­tact the provin­cial govern­ment in early 2017, just over a year af­ter the court­house closed, to in­di­cate the town was in­ter­ested in ac­quir­ing the prop­erty.

How­ever, Coombs, who did not serve on that coun­cil, said the town would not be in a po­si­tion to take own­er­ship of the build­ing.

“That’s a pipe dream,” he said, not­ing coun­cil has other pri­or­i­ties to con­tend with.

“I just hope some­body gets the court­house and does it up and com­ple­ments the church devel­op­ment there, be­cause peo­ple are ex­cited.”

Even though it has not been in use for the last three years, the prop­erty con­tin­ues to cost the province. Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures ob­tained through an ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion re­quest, be­tween Jan­uary 2016 and the be­gin­ning of Oc­to­ber 2018, govern­ment spent $75,374.83 on the prop­erty. Most of those ex­penses re­late to heat­ing oil, with ad­di­tional costs in­clud­ing pay­ments made to en­gi­neer­ing firms, elec­tric­ity bills, se­cu­rity and small gen­er­alup­keep jobs.

Some struc­tural in­spec­tions were car­ried out in Au­gust by Tiller En­gi­neer­ing. The de­part­ment told The Com­pass this was done to “both en­sure the build­ing con­tin­ues to pose no risk to pub­lic safety and to in­form next steps for the di­vest­ment of the prop­erty.”

“I just hope some­body gets the court­house and does it up and com­ple­ments the church devel­op­ment there, be­cause peo­ple are ex­cited.”

— Mayor Don Coombs


The his­toric court­house build­ing may soon have a new owner. The De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Works re­cently con­firmed to The Com­pass it will is­sue a call for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est for the struc­ture in the com­ing weeks.


Har­bour Grace-Port de Grave MHA Pam Par­sons


Har­bour Grace Mayor Don Coombs

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