Despite a recommendation from the city’s heritage committee, Peterborough city council voted during a general committee meeting on Monday (July 18) to remove the former Montreal House from the city’s heritage register and to not designate it as a heritage building.
Based on a recommendation in a report from city staff, council’s decision means property developer Ashburnham Realty can proceed with its request to demolish the building for the commercial and residential development at the corner of King and Aylmer, part of the city’s Louis Street urban park development.
Originally called the Montreal House, the building at 282 Aylmer Street North was constructed in the 1850s and later became a residence for French Canadian lumbermen working the forests north of Peterborough under the ownership of a French Canadian named Joseph Brault. By the early 20th century, the Montreal House was under ownership of an English Canadian and its residents broadened to include workers in the major industries such as Canadian General Electric that had arrived in the city.
Later it became a men’s only drinking establishment. By the late 20th century, the Montreal House was known as a venue for emerging bands and hosted numerous acts that have since found local and national renown. In 2014, it became the location of Dr. J’s BBQ & Brews restaurant.
Ashburnham Realty purchased the property in 2020 with the intention of developing the residential and commercial building at the corner of King and Aylmer. Originally, the plans were to maintain the existing building or reconstruct it as part of the new development but maintain the restaurant. However, in May, Ashburnham Realty owner Paul Bennett submitted a request to the city to demolish the building.
Under the Ontario Heritage Act, city council must consult with its heritage committee before making a decision about a building on the heritage register. On June 23, Bennett and Lett Architects Inc. design principal Michael Gallant made a presentation to the Peterborough Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee.
During the presentation, Gallant explained the building could no longer be incorporated into the design for the commercial and residential development, mainly because of flood plain requirements and the need for the finished floor elevation to be above existing grades. Bennett said the building had to be demolished for the development to proceed.
Although committee members recognized the potential value to the community of the development — which will include 75 below-market-rate units subsidized through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as well as washrooms, a change room area, and storage space to support the urban park — they ultimately recommended to city council the building receive a heritage designation because of its heritage value.
At its July 18th general committee meeting, council considered a report from Sandra Clancy, the city’s chief administrative officer, that recommended the building not receive a heritage designation.
“The recommendation to not designate the Montreal House under the Ontario Heritage Act will allow this development to move forward in a way that will provide much needed affordable housing to our community, enhance the streetscape, protect the investment made at the urban park by providing the necessary facilities and mitigate impacts to the floodplain,” the report reads.
“It is staff’s recommendation that the Montreal House, located at 282 Aylmer Street North, not be designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, 1990. The approval of this recommendation would permit the demolition of the Heritage Listed building.”
“The demolition of this building would facilitate the construction of an 8-storey mixed use building with 75 residential units. The residential units will be composed of below market rent units through a partnership with CMHC. Given the timelines associated with the CMHC funding, Ashburnham Realty requires a commitment from the City to move forward with the public-private partnership by the end of July 2022.”
Council voted to accept the staff recommendation, with councillors Dean Pappas and Stephen Wright voting against it and councillor Kemi Akapo abstaining from the vote because of a pecuniary interest.