Marine Museum buys historic property back from Patry

The site at 55 Ontario St was once the home of the Marine Museum Of The Great Lakes and its dock was the home of the historic vessel Alexander Henry, now sold and relocated to Thunder Bay. The property has now been purchased back from a local developer in order to bring back the displaced museum.

The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston has bought back the museum site at 55 Ontario St. from local developer Jay Patry with the help of a donation from an unnamed benefactor. 

“The outstanding generosity of our Museum benefactor has been pivotal in allowing us to realise this dream and our vision for the Museum, the culmination of 4 years of dedicated work,” said Museum Board Chair Chris West. “While the mission of the Marine Museum will remain unchanged, the new Marine Museum will have a much-expanded role relative to its predecessor, one that will provide a far greater benefit to the Kingston community and its visitors.”

The Marine Museum will reopen in the original pump house building with significant upgrades, including more space to accommodate programmes, collection displays, permanent galleries, and special event galleries. 

Museum Manager Doug Cowie said that the Marine Museum’s next steps would include “comprehensive study, inclusive consultation and a detailed visioning exercise,” in order to establish a “cultural and tourism hub that is bold and sustainable while simultaneously celebrating our unique heritage, Great Lakes history and priceless waterfront.” 

West stated that the museum was in the development of a “capital campaign plan designed to fund the refurbishment and renovation of the current buildings.”

The 1.7 hectare property was declared surplus by the federal government and sold to Patry in early 2016. It includes the Pump House building and 19th century limestone dry dock, which are both designated national historic sites. 

Patry unveiled plans to replace the former pump house museum building with a 292-unit highrise and parking structure in 2017. The proposed development faced a myriad of obstacles over the three years, including opposition from the city and high site cleanup costs. 

The City of Kingston commissioned a third party review of private development proposal, citing urban design and heritage impact concerns. The project would negatively “impact the site’s nationally and locally significant industrial heritage” and required “a full redesign,” Dillon Consulting and Robertson Martin Architects stated in the report. 

The decades of industrial use has heavily scarred the dry dock property area, and the land is designated as a brownfield area. The extensive damage lead city council to decline an opportunity to purchase the property in 2016 after the cost of cleaning up the site was estimated at $19 million. 

Patry put the property up for sale in February 2019. The Marine Museum purchased it on Monday, July 29, 2019. Stating that his initial vision for the property “was not shared by some,” Patry said “we felt that a prudent path to advance was to give back to the City and the Museum and see the property restored as an important tourism hub on Kingston’s waterfront and the wider community.” 

According to the land transfer deed, the property was sold in two parts to Friends of the Marine Museum Ltd. for $2,999,990 and $10 respectively, for a total sum of $3 million.

The property parcel register also noted a Thursday, February 28, 2019 government order listing required repairs to one of the properties.

A July 12, 2018 inspection by a Property Standards Officer revealed that the property was in violation of Municipal Property Standards By-law #2005-100, Sections P.S. 7.2 (a)(b)(c) and P.S. 7.7, 7.9.

The By-law outlines the duties of owners/occupants of designated heritage properties to “maintain, preserve, and protect Heritage Attributes”, including ensuring buildings are structurally sound and that the heritage property is well heated, ventilated, and lit.

A Wednesday, October 3, 2018 order to remedy the violations of By-law #2005-100, Sections P.S. 7.2 (a)(b)(c) said that water had infiltrated the pump/engine room and that the wainscoting and paneling in the Dynamo room had sustained water damage. “Repairs to the wainscoting and paneling in the Dynamo room are required”, as is “removing all water from the pump/engine room to prevent further damage to the heritage attributes”, the Order read.

The By-law #2005-100, Sections P.S. 7.7, 7.9 violation remedy requirements included restoring power to the building to allow the sump pump, lights and heat to operate in order to “prevent further water damage and deterioration of heritage attributes”, as well as installing motion-activated exterior lighting.

Patry had been ordered that these repairs must be completed by Monday, November 12, 2018 or face having the property “repaired or demolished and the costs of such an action registered as a lien on the land”.

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