Residents against demolition

Land purchase: Citizens ask council to preserve old Orchard House

The city’s purchase of the former Minos Restaurant property took some people by surprise, and Frank Bugala was one of them.

Bugala addressed the Dec. 5 meeting of the city’s planning committee, stating he has a petition from 16 of 21 people in the Creekside strata where he lives. The complex is located across 24th Street NE from the property, next to the SASCU Recreation Centre.

He said his group has been discussing the parcel that encompasses the old Orchard House, as the restaurant building was known, and considering it for uses such as affordable housing.

Bugala remarked that the city had negotiated a good deal at $550,000, given that his group was told a purchase price of $700,000.

He said he would like council and the community to consider using it for a new purpose rather than demolishing it – or at least having a community conversation about it.

“It’s a fine old building in various states of repair.”

In a Nov. 29 press release, the city announced it plans to consolidate the newly purchased property with city-owned property to the north, on the corner of 8th Avenue and 24th Street NE, to create an approximate three-acre parcel. The enlarged property would be used for future development of a recreation or aquatics facility.

Coun. Ken Jamieson said he would be open to hearing proposals and perhaps the city could see how much of the property it would need.

“It all happened quickly and to read in the paper that we’ve bought it and will demolish it could be a shock to some people.”

Coun. Alan Harrison noted he was on the city’s heritage commission when Orchard House was considered and rejected.

“They were extremely thorough… While I hear what you say,” he told Bugala, “I don’t want to give you false hope. The idea is to expand the swimming pool and put a new swimming pool there. If it was on the heritage register, I might not have voted to purchase it… The plan involves having to remove the building.”

Coun. Chad Eliason agreed, adding that “the plan for the city right now is to remove that building and to provide the taxpayer with options for redevelopment of that site.”

Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond proposed an idea that the whole council supported. She asked: “How do we incorporate the spirit of that place in whatever is built there in the future?”

A way to do that, she said, would be to invite those interested to attend the next community heritage commission meeting on Dec. 20, and to consider how to incorporate the building’s spirit in the development.

She and other councillors stressed they don’t want the upcoming meeting to give citizens false hope that the building will be saved.

Couns. Kevin Flynn and Jamieson said they would be willing to delay the demolition – maybe 30 to 90 days – to make time for a community conversation.

Coun. Tim Lavery said he wouldn’t want to see an unused building sitting on the property for too long, but Bugala assured his strata would watch over it.

“From living next to it for many years, I know the community has reverence for it. We take care of it, people keep an eye on it.”