News

Council weighing Carnegie options

By John Tapley, Ingersoll Times

Council is considering the options after the Architectural Conservatory of Ontario (ACO) Ingersoll branch notified the Town of Ingersoll that it has been unable to raise the funds needed to take ownership of the former Carnegie library.

Council is considering the options after the Architectural Conservatory of Ontario (ACO) Ingersoll branch notified the Town of Ingersoll that it has been unable to raise the funds needed to take ownership of the former Carnegie library.

The Architectural Conservatory of Ontario (ACO) Ingersoll branch has notified the Town of Ingersoll that it has been unable to raise the funds needed to take ownership of the former Carnegie library.

 

“It is with great disappointment that we were not able to achieve this goal,” wrote Rick Eus in an email to the town on behalf of ACO Ingersoll. “It is now up to council to determine the fate of this beautiful heritage building.”

 

Built in 1910, Ingersoll's Carnegie library is one of 125 libraries constructed in Canada with grants from American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. It is one of 95 still standing in Ontario.

 

In late 2014, concerned about its liability due to condition issues, the Town of Ingersoll asked its Carnegie building tenants Youth for Christ and Operation Sharing to vacate the structure.

 

The state of the Carnegie building was raised in a facility assessment report completed by a consultant on all town-owned buildings. In the report, the building is assessed as “poor” and the recommendation is to sell it as is in the near future.

 

Less than a month after the issue came before council, a group of Ingersoll residents launched a campaign to save the historic building, which led to establishing the ACO Ingersoll Branch.

 

The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario – the parent organization of the Ingersoll group – lists its mandate as: "Through education and advocacy, to encourage the conservation and re-use of structures, districts and landscapes of architectural, historic and cultural significance, to inspire and benefit Ontarians."

 

Discussions between ACO Ingersoll and the town eventually led to a one year memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the potential transfer of the Carnegie building to ACO ownership and stewardship and that agreement is about to expire.

 

While it won't be taking ownership of the property, ACO Ingersoll has asked council to consider including it in the decision making process in considering options for the building.

 

It has also asked that if the building is to be sold, keeping the exterior as close to the original design as possible be a condition of sale and that the town bring forward a “listing” bylaw and list the Carnegie building as being of significant heritage value.

 

ACO Ingersoll offers its resources to support the Town of Ingersoll or the potential owners of the building if it is to be sold, in an effort to ensure this building remains standing,” Eus wrote.

 

While it wasn't able to meet the requirements to take ownership of the Carnegie building, Eus wrote that ACO Ingersoll has accomplished a lot over the past 18 months.

 

We were able to establish our branch and register as a charitable organization. We have been running fundraisers and programs in an effort to raise awareness in Ingersoll to the value and importance of maintaining our heritage building.”

 

He also noted that the organization has donated money to the upkeep of the Carnegie building.

 

Please rest assured the ACO Ingersoll branch will not be fading away after this,” Eus wrote. “We are continuing our fundraising efforts. The money raised will go toward advocacy as well as sponsor programs in Ingersoll and area that will continue to educate and bring awareness of the buildings, lands and features that are of significant heritage value within our beautiful community.”

 

In a report to council, Ingersoll CAO William Tigert wrote four different parties have made inquiries about gaining ownership of the building for various commercial activities over the past year.

 

At least three parties have toured the building, but no firm offers on the property have been received,” he wrote. “With the termination of the MOU, the town is now in a position to more aggressively market the building.”

 

Tigert wrote that a number of councillors have suggested that the Carnegie building facade should be designated historically significant prior to sale or as a condition of sale. It isn't believed that would negatively impact the ability of a new owner to develop a viable commercial enterprise, he wrote.

 

The designation would hopefully establish the need to maintain the outward appearance while still allowing modern amenities to be incorporated like windows being updated to maintenance free form while maintaining the look and ambiance of the existing construction.”

 

Council received the report as information and is believed to have discussed an asking price for the building later in closed session.