As I tap this out, scaffolding is now going up outside Bob Forrest’s properties in Main Street South (188, 190 and 194 Main Street South).
We know that Bob wants to demolish the historic commercial buildings and retain the facades to make space for his apartment building.
He needs to know what is behind the siding that conceals the original brickwork. It would suit his purpose if the old bricks were crumbling. But if there is anything worth saving he says he will take the façade down brick by brick, repair, renew as appropriate and re-instate.
This inspection of the facades was not done before Bob submitted his planning application to the Town in August 2013 when it was deemed “complete”.
Bob commissioned and paid for a Heritage Impact Assessment from Goldsmith Borgal and Company Ltd, Architects which tells us
“The original façade of 194 Main Street South has been altered many times – most notably the ground floor which has been reconfigured. Another common renovation, undertaken in attempts to modernize the facades, was the application of new materials, often installed over the original building fabric. In the case of 194 Main Street South, a cementitious board siding was applied in 1970s… covering the windows.”
“Currently the facades of both 194 and 190 are covered in a pre-finished corrugated metal siding with two of the original four windows on 194 facing on to Main Street.”
So far as 188 Main Street South is concerned:
“Again, numerous alterations have removed the original shop front configuration and a pre-finished corrugated metal siding conceals the brick facing of the building. Archival documentation shows that the brick facing had been painted over the years.”
My spies tell me Bob wants to remove the siding to allow an investigation of what lies behind. I have asked the Town if this investigation is to be purely visual or if it will be intrusive. I want to know if the work will be supervised by a heritage architect and whether Town staff will be present. The photo above, taken in the 1940s, shows the properties on the right that Bob now owns.
Those who have followed Bob's devious manouevrings to get approval for his out-of-place apartment building in the heart of the old Town’s Heritage Conservation District appreciate that eternal vigilance is required. Bob knows what he wants. He plays a very long game and doesn't take prisoners. The old downtown is now thriving but is blighted by Bob's boarded up properties, empty for years. When I see them dead and shuttered I think of the business tenants he evicted.
We need to know how long this work on the facades will take. And what commitments the Town has been given concerning reinstatement of the siding or other ways of protecting the facades from weather damage.
I see Bob is now thinking aloud about whether his seven storey rental apartment building should be a condo. The truth is, Bob is all over the place.
We've had six storeys, nine storeys and now seven storeys.
On tenure we've had condo then rental and now, possibly, condo again.
He is desperate to get any kind of approval from the Town which allows him to walk away, laden down with cash, from a project that is giving him so much grief.
These days, even the overt support of Tony Van Bynen counts for little.
Update at 17.00 on 19 August 2016: The Town informs me that permission was granted to Forrest for the removal of the steel coverings only. No masonry is to be removed. I am told this will allow for a digital scan and visual inspection to assess the condition of the original facade and allow the heritage consultant to prepare a heritage conservation plan. I am told Forrest's heritage consultant will be inspecting the site as the work progresses and Town staff will be there as much as possible. The removal of the siding should not take more than a couple of days. Any holes or cracks in the masonry will have to be plugged/filled to prevent damage from the elements.