Saturday, February 17, 2007

Royal Canadian Legion Building in Saskatoon tops endangered structures list; owner Remai Ventures Inc. might demolish historic 1929 landmark

Another black eye for Saskatoon on the heritage front as the Royal Canadian Legion Building on 19th Street East topped the Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society's 2007 Watch List of Endangered Structures. In February 2006 the owner of the building, Remai Ventures Inc., said it planned to demolish the historic landmark, which was built in 1929 by local veterans of the First World War.

King George Hotel makes endangered buildings list

Lori Coolican
The StarPhoenix

Saturday, February 17, 2007

For the second year in a row, a boarded-up downtown landmark has made the Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society's Watch List of endangered historical structures.

The King George Hotel appeared on the verge of a new life last September when Olstar Developments, a local company known for high-end refurbishments of historic properties, signed a tentative sales agreement with the hotel's owner, Vancouver-based Nazir Kassam, and announced plans to convert the building for residential use.

As of Friday, however, the sale had not been finalized.

Kassam failed to pay property taxes on the 95-year-old building for several years, leaving the city in a position to take over the title. Civic officials have been reluctant to do that while the owner was negotiating to sell, but the property can't change hands until all outstanding taxes and various other liens against it have been cleared up.

Kassam was about $600,000 in arrears on the hotel's taxes last July when he sold the attached parkade to a separate buyer with no connection to Olstar. He turned over the sale proceeds of $400,000 to the city to clear up the parkade's tax arrears, which sat at $175,000, and dedicated the rest to the outstanding arrears on the hotel.

When contacted by The StarPhoenix, Olstar partner Peter Olson said he would comment on the hotel's future Tuesday.

Once considered a classy hotel and night spot, the King George declined into shabbiness before saying goodbye to its last guest in 2003. The fire service issued a repair or demolish order on the building after a fire caused moderate damage three years ago.

The longer an old building like the King George stands vacant, "the more chance there is of it deteriorating to a point where it has to be taken down," said SAHS executive director Al Rosseker, who hopes Olson and his partner will take their plan for the hotel forward.

"It's not a renewable resource. There ain't going to be another Gathercole (building), there's not going to be another KG. Once they are gone, they're gone," he said.

Another downtown property, the Royal Canadian Legion building on 19th Street, is also on this year's watch list for the second year running. This time, it's the subject of a demolition alert.

The downtown Legion branch sold its longtime home in 2005 to Remai Ventures, the local company building a luxury spa hotel on adjacent land at River Landing. The Legion is required to vacate by the end of this month. No demolition date has been set, but construction of the hotel is slated to begin this summer.

Historical groups and some veterans opposed the sale, but "I'm not seeing a real public outcry, and I'm not seeing any surge in compassion by the developer to keep it," Rosseker said. "It's a grand old building. It's a shame, but at this point it's the age-old (question) of dollars for development versus heritage."

Noticeably missing from this year's watch list is the Traffic Bridge. The century-old steel trustle span had been closed to traffic for several months due to corrosion problems when it made last year's list, but since then the city has invested more than $600,000 on repairs to keep it in operation for another 20 years. History buffs remain anxious about the lack of any plan to paint the structure.

"It's preventative maintenance, and I would hope that (the city) would maybe come up with some kind of solution," Rosseker said. "Maybe they could get a paint company to sponsor it and try to get some kind of coating on the steel because it's out there in the elements, and it deteriorates."

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Royal Canadian Legion Building, 19th St. E., Saskatoon *Demolition Alert
Former Presutti's Restaurant/Market Mall, Lorne St., Regina *Demolition Alert
Gordon(Aldon) Block, 12th Ave., Regina *Demolition Alert
Grand Trunk Railway Bridge and Trestle, The Battlefords
Lasting Impressions Building, Main Street, Moose Jaw
CBK Radio Transmitter Building, Watrous
Fort San sanatorium, Fort Qu'Appelle
King George Hotel, 2nd Avenue North, Saskatoon
McCloy Creek Trestle Bridge, RM of Invergordon
Natatorium, Moose Jaw
Souris Valley Hospital, Weyburn

Removed from the Watch List in 2007:

Bell Barn, Indian Head. Restoration planning is now underway by a local group.
Harding House, Regina. Developer plans to sell or adapt for reuse instead of demolition.
Traffic Bridge, Saskatoon. City council resolved to rehabilitate and keep it open.

Ran with fact box "The Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society's 2007 Watch List of Endangered Structures:" which has been appended to the story.

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007


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