photo by Blackburn Newsphoto by Blackburn News

Debate Over Historic Hospital Buildings

It is a race against the clock to decide which, if any, historic buildings at the old South St. Hospital site to tear down.

City staff is recommending the historic Gartshore Nurses' Residence Building and Health Services Building, both lining South St., be demolished. The 1922 portion of the War Memorial Hospital and Colborne Building would remain.

If council makes a decision by March 30, the city will be granted upwards of $5-million to help with the take down and removal of dangerous materials.

However, the London Advisory Committee On Heritage and the community at large wants to see all four buildings incorporated into the future developer's plans.

"We believe that a very effective and wonderful development could be created integrating these heritage structures, we've seen this all over the county," says Chair of the Advisory Committee on Heritage Wes Kinghorn. "The Distillery District is a lovely example. There are many other places where old buildings are integrated with new and form a beautiful and vibrant street-scape."

City planners are currently reviewing expressions of interest from developers for the chunk of land, that would be transformed into a mixed-use residential neighbourhood along the waterfront of the Thames River.

Officials say the cost of renovating and maintaining all four buildings could deter developers.

"The total bill would be somewhere near $60-million. The two that we're recommending be retained is $18-million to $19-million. Retaining the buildings would also mean annual care costs and those, if everything is kept, could be getting up to the $250,000 to $1-million mark," says London's Chief Planner John Fleming.

The Planning and Environment Committee will review city staff and the Heritage Advisory Committee recommendations . A final recommendation will then be made to council, which will make a decision later next month.

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