Linda Browne peeks inside the downtown building likely bound for demolition, and wonders what go in its place.
It’s a little house that has caused lots of controversy.
And on May 29th, St. John’s City Hall will host a public meeting to determine the fate of the building that sits at 2-4 Symes Bridge Road.
The two-storey house, inconspicuously nestled behind trees and rows of bushes, sits peacefully near the Waterford River and T’railway.
It was once the home of various artists, writers and musicians, but soon, the building may cease to exist.
Last year the house was at the centre of a battle between the Independent Artists Cooperative (IAC) and the city of St. John’s.
It all started back in 2002 when City Council issued a call to the public for anyone interested in converting the property into a workspace for artists.
The IAC prepared a proposal to acquire the property and it was passed by Council, on the condition that repairs be made.
However, the IAC said that whenever they came close to securing funding for renovations, they were shot down by City Council.
In 2006, the IAC demanded the deed and title to the property at Symes Bridge by August 1st.
They never got it.
The IAC was ordered to vacate the property, with the City taking possession on October 31, 2006.
According to the City’s Manager of Real Estate Services, Gareth Griffiths, the decision came down to the IAC not holding up their end of the bargain.
“Back when the city leased the property to the Artists Cooperative, it was for an 18 month term,” he says. “And also with the condition in there that if they were to bring the property up to a good standard, which was determined in the lease as to what we meant by that, if they were able to do it as they suggested they were, then we would give them the property. But they didn’t do very much work at all.”
Nobody from the IAC were willing to comment about the property.
However, a media release distributed by the group last July lists initiatives they took to improve the building, such as replacing outdoor steps, removing moldy walls and floors, fixing roofing and replacing gyprock, plywood and basic plumbing.
Right now, the vacant building stands in a state of disrepair.
It’s the City’s intention to remove the building and to maintain the property for public use as a passive area.
Walking by the house, I can imagine a happy group of children playing in a sandbox or on a set of monkey bars. It’s a quiet spot, and seems like the perfect area for a playground, or even a dog park.
I could also imagine a gazebo in place of where the house now stands, surrounded by an array of flowers and maybe a water fountain for thirsty joggers and their four legged friends.
Perhaps if the space remained within the commercial zone, the area could be transformed into a farmers’ market where local producers could peddle their wares.
But what does the city have in mind?
“They might put a picnic table or a park bench in there, just have a little rest area, that sort of thing. Like a little mini-park,” says Griffiths.
Anyone who wants to offer their own suggestions or voice any concerns can attend the public meeting on May 29 at 7:00 pm in the Foran/Greene Room, on the fourth floor of City Hall.