Amherst asking for proposals for BMO building

Darrell Cole
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'There is no plan to demolish that building at this time.’

Amherst is issuing a request for proposals for potential uses for the old BMO building downtown.

Amherst town council is going to seek requests for proposals for possible uses for the former BMO buliding downtown.

AMHERST – Amherst is going to ask for requests for proposals to help it determine a long-term use for a downtown heritage building.

Mayor Robert Small told Amherst council’s December session on Monday that the town will make the call for proposals early in 2014 to help it come up with a long-term plan for the building that has been vacant for more than a decade.

“We’ve asked staff tonight to seek request for proposals,” Small said following the council session. “It ties into our strategic planning for the town. In January we’re going to release the results of our latest long-range strategic plan and you’re going to see there’s a big heritage element in that.”

Earlier this month the town opened up the heritage building on the corner of LaPlanche and Victoria Street to let the public have a look inside and provide suggestions on its long-term use.

At that open house, the town collected comment forms asking participants if they believe the building should be saved even though it could cost $900,000 to repair versus $500,000 to build a new building on the property.

Planning director Jason MacDonald said the overwhelming majority of those who participated are in favour of saving the building that at one time served as the home of the Amherst Police Department until 1995 when it moved up Victoria Street to where Breakfast at Brittney’s is today.

MacDonald said those who attended the open house feel the building is irreplaceable and a “central representation of our rich history and an important part of our streetscape that represents what makes Amherst different, interesting and attractive to visitors.”

As for a potential use, MacDonald said participants want it maintained for general public use for classes, a theatre, conferences, workshops and art shows. It could also be used as a tourist bureau, a market or a Made in Amherst store.

The mayor said he wants to continue collecting input from residents and groups to get their thoughts.

“One of the main concerns we heard from the public is a fear that we plan to demolish the building. I can assure you there is no plan to demolish that building at this time. Council has not made any of those decisions at this time,” Small said.

Amherst paid $300,000 to buy the former BMO building, and the Dominion Public Building in December 2010 from a Halifax developer. The Dominion building was converted into a new home for Amherst town hall while the town has been unable to come up with a use for the other building.

Earlier in 2010, the town hired a contractor to fix portions of the building’s façade after concerns were raised about the potential for stonework to fall from the parapet at the top of the structure.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: BMO, Amherst council, Dominion Amherst Police Department

Geographic location: Amherst, Victoria Street, LaPlanche Halifax

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