Legion purchase should be viewed as opportunity

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Following the saga that was the ownership of several downtown buildings by a Halifax developer was much like watching a movie that has lots of promise, but turns out to be a dud.

Earlier this week, Amherst bought the last of the buildings owned by Tang Dynasty Investments when it purchased the former Royal Canadian Legion property on Princess Street and an adjoining parking lot at a sheriff’s sale.

The town could have taken a hands-off approach and let nature take its course, but that would have meant leaving a deteriorating building in the heart of the downtown that already was an eyesore and was certainly destined to become a safety hazard.

You really can’t blame Tang for dreaming big when he bought the legion building along with several others. The developer had plans to redevelop the buildings into vibrant structures through the immigrant investor program. Unfortunately, Tang was never able to find any partners to buy into his vision. He eventually walked away from the buildings and stopped investing in their upkeep, and in some cases stopped paying property taxes or only paying before they went up for tax sale.

Eventually, the town tore down the Bird building (even though it was home to the Signature Mural), while it bought the Dominion building and police station – converting the former into the new home of town hall.

While the record will show the town paid just over $59,000 to purchase the legion building at the sheriff’s sale, the actual impact on the bottom line will be minimal since the town was the major creditor. There will be expenses associated with the sale and the town has committed $10,000 to the legion so it could take over the mortgage.

It’s still a good investment for the town. That is if it manages to successfully demolish the building and find someone willing to take the property and build something new that will attract additional people to the downtown core.

Amherst needs to be aggressive in marketing the property as a viable location for a business or residential development. The town cannot allow the property to become another hole in the downtown.

Amherst has spent a lot of money trying to spruce up its downtown. Removing a derelict building makes sense, but it should be considered as creating an opportunity as opposed to the end of a chapter, albeit a less than stellar one, in Amherst’s history.

Organizations: Royal Canadian Legion, Dominion

Geographic location: Halifax, Princess Street

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  • Joe R
    December 19, 2012 - 22:08

    Well said, from a Toronto transplant who witnessed a city council with no vision in the 1970s to early 1990s. One that operated without any semblance of plan. They squandered the waterfront and portlands, allowed historic buildings to fall down or become the seedling for entire neighbourhoods to succumb to urban decay. The cost is minor, in spite of the protestations of commentors who monopolize the arguments against protecting our collective heritage. Kudos to those who are actually engaging in central planning that promotes a vision of a beautiful town's heritage. Look at manufacturing towns in transition all across the U.S. & Canada, those with derelict buildings see neighbours packing up and moving, property values plummet, taxes go unpaid. Surgery against this spreading decay is mandatory.