Ask Pat: Dontenwill Hall

Someone asked—

Hey Pat, I was driving down Agnes Street the other day and was checking out the progress on the restoration of the old Dontenwill Hall (336 Agnes) and remember reading in your April 3 post that you support the proposed HRA for this redevelopment, which provided some concessions to the developer as a means to ensure that survival of this ” the historically important building”. The thing that struck me as odd while I drove by was the recent installation of Vinyl windows and addition of a huge A/C unit on the front roof. Being under an HRA, shouldn’t the exterior materials used be in keeping with those available at the time of construction and should not there be reasonable attempts to place mechanical systems so that they do not affect the street appearance of the building?

This is one of those topics of which I don’t know much, so I need to do more research, and rely on the opinions and suggestions of our staff and the external experts who do know more.

The conditions of the HRA are outlined in the agreement,  which you can read as part of the agenda of the March 3o Public Hearing. The only thing in that agreement that directly references the approach to restoration is this clause:

Upon execution of this Agreement, the Owner shall promptly commence the preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration of the Heritage Building (the “Work”) in accordance with the “Dontenwill Hall – Heritage Conservation Plan” prepared by Pattison Architecture and dated August, 2014, a copy of which is attached as Appendix 2 (the “Conservation Plan”).

Which makes the appended Conservation Plan the document with the details to how the City and proponent have agreed to do the restoration. In there, it appears there were some 1990s vinyl windows that were allowed to stay as they were in good condition and structurally sound, however the agreement states that if those windows ever need replacing, they will need to be with period-appropriate wood framed units. I suspect cleaning them up and fixing up around them might make them look like new units, but I have been assured they are the existing ones.

The air handling system isn’t really covered in the HRA, as there is no reference to it in the Restoration Plan. Apparently, it came later in the planning. This is part I had to check into, and apparently there is a plan to do some screening of the units, but there is a bit of devil in details here. As the HVAC upgrades are not strictly related to the exterior renovation (which is what the HRA secures), and there are building permits and code requirements in regards to air handling that definitely did not exist in 1940, there needs to be a bit of  wiggle room in the final design if we want the building to be functional. Long and short, the HVAC unit does not violate the terms of the HRA, but the “spirit” of the HRA would support screening them to make them blend in better.

Note, the hall is still a “work in progress”, so we should wait to see how it all turns out.

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