Road cleared for $20 million redevelopment of two historic downtown Peterborough buildings

City council denies heritage designation requests for Pig's Ear, Black Horse properties

On April 3, 2017, Peterborough City Council voted to deny heritage designation to the properties at 144 Brock Street (The Pig's Ear Tavern) and 450 George Street North (The Black Horse Pub). The two properties adjoin the west and south sides of the Morrow Building, which received heritage designation in 1995. The decision paves the way for Parkview Homes to develop the two properties, although the developer's plans will be reviewed by council. (Photo: Google)
On April 3, 2017, Peterborough City Council voted to deny heritage designation to the properties at 144 Brock Street (The Pig's Ear Tavern) and 450 George Street North (The Black Horse Pub). The two properties adjoin the west and south sides of the Morrow Building, which received heritage designation in 1995. The decision paves the way for Parkview Homes to develop the two properties, although the developer's plans will be reviewed by council. (Photo: Google)

Despite several passionate pleas that two downtown Peterborough buildings be granted heritage designation to head off their possible demolition, Peterborough City Council has denied that designation, instead directing City staff to work closely with the buildings’ new owner on their redevelopment and that council have the final say on what those those plans are.

The two properties — 144 Brock Street (The Pig’s Ear Tavern) and 450 George Street North (The Black Horse Pub) — have been conditionally purchased by Parkview Homes whose owner and president Paul Dietrich has secured demolition permits for both structures as part of his plan to develop a combined 50 apartment units. The permits were sought with the signed permission of the current owners of both properties: John Punter and Lylie Ryder (144 Brock Street) and Ray Kapoor (450 George Street North).

However, after those permits were issued, the Peterborough Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (PACAC) voted, on March 2, to recommend heritage designation be granted to both properties, which would prevent their outright demolition and severely restrict what modifications can be made to them. City staff subsequently recommended to council that PACAC’s heritage designation request be “deferred” and that “viable alternatives” to the buildings’ demolition be explored in co-operation with Parkview.

Having voted to receive staff’s report and attached recommendation as information, council (meeting as Committee of the Whole on March 27) directed staff to work with Parkview Homes on a design for both buildings that fits with that of the abutting heritage-designated Morrow Building at the northeast corner of George and Brock streets. That set the stage for a final vote on Monday night (April 3).

Among the number of people who spoke on the matter before council were three key players in the ultimate fate of the buildings: lawyer Jeff Ayotte representing Parkview Homes, PACAC chair Stewart Hamilton, and an emotional John Punter who, with his wife Lylie Ryder, conditionally sold the Pig’s Ear property to Parkview in January.

“We are vehemently opposed to a heritage designation being forced upon us,” said Punter, joined at the podium by his wife.

“As small business owners, we worked through the good times and the bad, secure in the knowledge that, some day, the tavern would play a major part in our retirement plans. In January, we accepted an offer (to purchase). Our ‘some day’ had arrived. Perhaps you can appreciate how shocked we are to learn that a heritage designation can be forced upon us, leaving our retirement plans in shreds.”

“We heard the term ‘hostile designation’ for the first time last Monday night (March 27). Until then, we mistakenly believed that the choice to designate was a property owner’s right. This well-hidden term is something people need to know about. Pay attention (property) owners. If they can do it to us, they can do it to you.”

Saying “This is a genie we can’t put back in the bottle,” Punter added it has been announced The Pig’s Ear is closing April 22nd. Monthly pub events have found new homes and longtime pub staff have made plans to move on.

Kapoor, meanwhile, while present, did not address council regarding the sale of his property. However, in a letter emailed to late last week, he commended Parkview Homes for a “new vision” at the centre of its desire to invest in, and revitalize, downtown Peterborough. He also urged residents to ask councillors to allow Parkview that opportunity.

For his part, Ayotte made Parkview’s plans for both properties clearer, lamenting what he termed “a degree of polarity” that has arisen with regard to Parkview’s development plans for, both properties.

“It seems to have been put before you by some as an all-or-nothing proposition,” Ayotte said. “Either you, as a council, take steps to preserve the architectural heritage of those two buildings or you allow for development.

“It doesn’t have to be that kind of choice. The architectural heritage of those two buildings does have to be respected and we are prepared to commit to work with (City) staff to ensure that the ultimate design does incorporate features that respect that architectural heritage. We don’t see it as an all-or-nothing thing.

“In a perfect world, it would be wonderful if a developer came along and said ‘I really would like to turn that into a boutique hotel with a pub and I’ve got an endless amount of dollars to do that’ but no one is coming before you saying that. The danger is if you do make this choice (impose heritage designation) you end up with heritage designated buildings which are empty and derelict. This is an opportunity; an opportunity to continue on the work of this council, and previous councils, have done to ensure the success of the downtown core.”

Ayotte added Parkview is “prepared to give the final say to (City) staff, and ultimately, council. We’re prepared to go back to staff for final approval (of the design) and here to council. This is not a difficult choice for you to make.”

In response to Councillor Gary Baldwin’s noting published media reports that Parkview is planning to demolish the two buildings as its secured permits allow, Ayotte didn’t clearly confirm or deny that intention. However, asked if the buildings’ facades will be preserved as part of any new design, Ayotte said that’s “financially unfeasible,” adding current building code requirements must be incorporated as part of any new design.

“Is it going to be the same bricks and mortar? No. Is it (the final design) going to be approved by you (council) and staff? Yes.”

The voices calling for heritage designation of both properties dominated the delegations list. Among the more noteworthy was that of PACAC chair Stewart Hamilton. PACAC, he noted, has advised city council on heritage designation matters for more than 40 years.

“Stating that this is an attempt at a hostile designation by the committee is completely out of line,” said Hamilton. “The fact is PACAC is empowered under the Heritage Act to advise council on matters of heritage … that is exactly what we did.

“We have a large wait list. Right now we have about eight other properties on a wait list. That’s about three years’ worth of work. Could these (heritage designation requests) have come sooner? Possibly, but there’s a wait list (for designation) already.”

Meanwhile, educating council on the historical significance of both structures was longtime local historian Elwood Jones. And Trent Valley Archives board member Guy Thompson noted his organization hosts popular tours of the downtown core which have historical buildings as their centerpiece.

“When historical buildings are torn down, a hole is left in our history,” Thompson said. “The downtown streets and buildings are foundations for stories that tell the beginnings of our city.”

Councillor Henry Clarke seconded Councillor Don Vassiliadis’ motion directing City staff to work with Parkview Homes to explore viable alternatives for heritage preservation and report back to council. Along with them, councillors Andrew Beamer, Lesley Parnell, Dan McWilliams, Keith Riel and Mayor Daryl Bennett voted in favour of the motion, with councillors Baldwin and Dianne Therrien voting against it.

Councillors Dave Haacke and Dean Pappas abstained from voting, have declared conflicts — Parkview is a client of Coun. Haacke’s real estate business and Coun. Pappas owns property near the two buildings.

Parkview Homes owner and president Paul Dietrich was present to hear the result of the vote, but declined comment afterwards.

However, in an earlier exclusive, he affirmed that a heritage designation placed on either building “would prevent any development moving forward.” He also acknowledged his full awareness of the historical significance of both structures, assuring that will be recognized, in some way, in the buildings’ redevelopment.

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Paul Rellinger
Paul Rellinger a.k.a Relly is an award-winning journalist and longtime former newspaper editor still searching for the perfect lead. When he's not putting pen to paper, Paul is on a sincere but woefully futile quest to own every postage stamp ever issued. A rabid reader of history, Paul claims to know who killed JFK but can't say out of fear for the safety of his oh so supportive wife Mary, his three wonderful kids and his three spirited grandchildren. Paul counts among his passions Peterborough's rich live music scene, the Toronto Maple Leafs, slopitch and retrieving golf balls from the woods. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @rellywrites.