ACO looking at moving Certo Building

As reported on September 19, Council has been asked to approve demolition of the Certo building on the old Kraft property (see link below).  It is in bad shape and an engineer’s report said a rough estimate to bring it into shape would be $500,000.  The request is currently with staff for a report but at tonight’s Committee of the Whole Council meeting, Diane Chin, President of the Architectural Conservancy Ontario, Cobourg branch (ACO) asked that the permit be denied.  She said that there were only a few examples in Cobourg of heritage industrial buildings and this one should be preserved.

One example of a preserved heritage industrial building is the Mill; another was the old matting factory on Tremaine but that was demolished.  The building being discussed – known as the Certo building – was used by Kraft for Micro-biology research and is one of the few remaining.

Diane Chin
Diane Chin

The ACO did not say who would pay for preservation but the implication was that they would find the money and were currently looking at options.  One idea would be to move the building off the Kraft property and install it on a park somewhere in Cobourg.  There have already been buildings moved in Cobourg – one example is the Cottage now used as a gift shop on the Sifton-Cook Museum property.  Another that she did not mention is the house that was on the current Canadian Tire property  (the Wilson farm house). Diane mentioned that larger but similar buildings had been moved in Whitby but there would need to be a feasibility study.

When asked, Diane said that if moving the whole building was not feasible, then the first priority would be the façade with the three columns.

To bolster her case, Diane preceded her request to deny a demolition permit by mentioning the great job the ACO did with the very popular Heritage signs distributed throughout the Town that say:  “This house existed in 1867”. An almost complete list is on the Cobourg History site here.

She also said that in 2013 Council should never have agreed to “list” the Certo building instead of “designating” it as a Heritage building since the owner at the time planned on making changes to the building.

At no point in her presentation did Diane address how funds would be raised to restore the building (approx. $500k) then move it (unknown cost).

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5 Comments on "ACO looking at moving Certo Building"

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There has been some misunderstanding about the thrust of the ACO’s presentation to Council about the Certo building. The ACO was merely asking to be given a little time in order to explore options to preserve the building, including how to fund moving it and stabilizing it. And it certainly is not the ACO’s “first priority” to save the facade. The facade on that building would be particularly difficult to preserve as the Greek columns are a design feature only. Nor was the ACO criticizing Council for listing rather than designating the building. The owner had promised in 2013 to restore the building if Council agreed to list rather than designate. The owner reneged on his promise. I should also add that the $500,000 figure quoted in the engineering report is a highly subjective figure by a company considering the wishes of a client and nowhere in the report was it stated to what standard of preservation (the gold standard?) that would accomplish. Demolition is expensive and perhaps the owner would be willing to contribute those monies to a preservation option. There is much to be explored but time is needed.

This building does not belong to the Town. We would have to buy it and then pay for all the costs a complete restoration would cost. Or we would have to demand the current owner do the needed remedial work. Unfortunately the owner has a habit of taking quarrelsome municipalities (like Belleville) to court if they insist on asking for remedial work.

That’s the reality. If I let myself gloss over these practical facts and into dreamland, I can suggest a compromise. We let the building be demolished, but first we rescue the front columns and facade and put it in a park area. Toronto did this at the Guildwood Inn in Scarborough, and guests could wander around land directly overlooking Lake Ontario to see these original heritage building facades. Fantastic! There were many of them and a guide book with photos to take on the tour.

Would that work?

Yes. I think the columns would look great out on the pier, perhaps the west pier where every winter they will be blasted with wind and water freezing on the columns to make interesting configurations. But what other places might look good with their presence?

Did you just ask us “Where do you want me to put these?”

Good on them if they can pull it off. It is a handsome building. I frequently drive by it and the roof is already partially collapsed.

Assuming they do it I wonder where a good spot would be? I dont really like the idea of a park.

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