It can sometimes feel like we're losing all of our heritage properties in St. John's, and that's thanks in large part to high-profile stories of properties like Richmond Cottage, Belvedere Orphanage, and two buildings owned by Salvation Army.
But inside City Hall, I get to see the many success stories that don't get sensational news coverage, but which exemplify the slow, persistent work of strengthening our built heritage. I'd like to share just a few.
Council recently awarded $16,051.94 (and waived permit fees) to several owners of heritage properties to help restore and maintain them.
We also just approved the designation of seven more heritage properties, which we can add to the nine approved earlier this year (and 140 before them). These sixteen new designations came as the result of us reaching out to owners and asking if they would like to go through the process.
Designation gives Council the authority to prevent a demolition, which is an important protection of our built heritage. But it also affords a symbolic value for the owner, and can make it easier to receive funding from other sources to maintain and enhance the property.
But perhaps the most important benefit of heritage designation for some owners is the ability to use their property for purposes that would otherwise not be allowed.
This was the case for the impressive 55 Rennie's Mill Road, a 128-year-old majestic property once inhabited by the 12th Prime Minister of Newfoundland, Lord Edward Patrick Morriss.
You can read more and watch a video tour of the home here, but suffice it to say that this property could have been demolished were it not for the alignment of what I like to call the "stars of heritage."
These stars are the property owner, the experienced and passionate contractor and construction crews, the City, and the public. If these groups did not see the value in and were not committed to saving this property, we may have lost it.
After working over many months with the contractor during the construction process, Council has just recently approved a new owner to utilize the property for both residential and office space purposes. This mix will enable the massive home to be both a home and an income-generating (and self-sustaining) property.
In other words, it will be used and appreciated by residents of the city, and can now survive in all its splendor for decades to come and for all to enjoy.
Now that's a positive story!