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Historic O’Connor Building gets a second life in Huntingdon

Work has begun to restore the historic O’Connor Building in Huntingdon.

The century-old structure, which was listed as a heritage building by the town of Huntingdon in 2009, had been abandoned for several years before a fire last April resulted in significant damage.

Built in 1915, the building included a restaurant, a post office, movie theatre, and several other businesses and organizations over the years. Now, owner Howard Greenspoon of the Montreal-based holding company Greenvest Enterprises, Inc. plans to restore the building for residential purposes.

Work began months ago to stabilize the structure from the inside. The annex at the rear of the building where the fire originated was recently demolished and is currently being rebuilt. According to Huntingdon mayor André Brunette, an engineer reported that most of the damage caused by fire was limited to the annex; however, the front section was badly affected by smoke and water damage. Water had also been infiltrating the building from holes in the roof for years.

“We had no choice but to demolish the interior of the building, including the entire roof and upper floor,” says Greenspoon, who admits the structure was in jeopardy of collapsing following the fire. He says the town agreed to issue a building permit, provided the original façade was maintained along with the look or character of the building.

 

The historic OConnor Building is being restored in Huntingdon PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

“What was important for the town was to preserve the building,” says Huntingdon director general Johanne Hébert, who confirms the town has been working closely with Greenspoon on the project.

During the April 2 regular meeting of the municipal council, the town introduced a revitalization program for the restoration of historic buildings in the downtown area.

The main objectives of the program will be to provide support to the owners of buildings of particular interest for restorative work, to rehabilitate the built environment, and to preserve historic buildings within the town. As part of the program, financial assistance for a maximum period of ten years, including in the form of a tax credit, can be offered to property owners.

Brunette confirms the project to restore the O’Connor Building corresponds with the criteria set out in the program. “It is a $2.5 million investment,” he says, of the work being done by Greenspoon, while pointing out that to benefit from the program, the exterior structure of the building, including the façade and the lettering, must remain the same.

“We are doing our best to try to salvage this important heritage property which will hopefully be enjoyed once again by the people of Huntingdon,” says Greenspoon.

The town is also working on a zoning bylaw that will convert the commercial space to residential and allow for the creation of 20 apartments in the building. Parking for the residents will be underground. Brunette says there is already some interest in the apartments.

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