• Staff are recommending Council formally removes 6343 Main Street from the Town’s Built Heritage Inventory.
  • Although the site is not currently designated as a heritage property, its removal from the Built Heritage Inventory is required to proceed with demolition of the structure and the approved expansion of Civic Square.
  • Stouffville’s Heritage Advisory Committee recently requested that 6343 Main Street be preserved and designated as a formal heritage property within the Town’s Built Heritage Inventory.
  • Staff acknowledged that the property meets criteria for designation; however, they believe the resulting loss of heritage value is “outweighed by the gain in community value presented by revitalization and rejuvenation of the area into urban parkland and activity space.”
  • Although 6343 Main is one of Stouffville’s oldest standing structures, a 2020 assessment indicates that many of its original features have been replaced or covered over.
  • Council will decide on this next step at their meeting on March 6, 2024. Residents can speak to the item during the meeting or email comments to the Town Clerks at clerks@townofws.ca.

The primary building at 6343 Main Street was constructed in 1853 by Augustus von Buseck and his brother-in-law, Eli Wismer, as a saddle and harness shop, according to the related Staff report. A smaller building at the rear of the site, likely erected around the same time, is believed to have served as a former blacksmithing forge built with hand-pressed bricks. Since then, the primary structure has housed various businesses, including a tailor shop, shoe store, flower shop, and others.

Stouffville acquired the site in February 2022 with the intention of demolishing the building and expanding Civic Square. However, during their March 2023 Budget Meeting, Council approved an open call for proposals from parties interested in leasing and renovating the building for private use. While this could have provided a new revenue stream and allowed for the maintenance and utilization of the building, no interested parties came forward. Staff estimate that renovation costs could be as high as $2.5 million.

Subsequently, in June 2023, Council approved a Staff recommendation reverting to the original demolition proposal and initiated planning for the expansion of Civic Square. These recommendations also included Staff direction to assess, salvage, and incorporate heritage materials from the building for use in the overall site’s revitalization.

The demolition was recently discussed during a Heritage Advisory Committee (HAC) meeting on February 5, 2024. Roger da Cunha, Stouffville’s Manager of Park Operations and Development, delivered a brief presentation stating that the Town will prioritize passive uses for the future public realm to create a more flexible, adaptive space for programming and events. He also highlighted heritage elements and features which could be integrated into the design process, including brickwork, hewn timber, and decorative archways.

The Committee emphasized that the brick structure at the rear of the property is Stouffville’s oldest known brick building and expressed a strong desire to preserve it. In response, Councillor Hugo Kroon noted that the small size of the building would limit its applications. He and Staff mentioned the potential inclusion of such heritage elements in future privacy and decorative walls, dividers, or other physical features in the expanded space.

Staff also plan to document the demolition process and investigate whether the original siding remains beneath the existing siding, and a plaque or other means of commemorating the site’s history will be considered. “We own the building…and I leave it to Staff when they say to us that this building will be respected. I believe them, because it’s our building and the public is watching us,” Kroon told HAC. “We’re going to do this right.”

While other HAC members acknowledged Kroon’s perspective, they decided against endorsing the demolition and instead passed a recommendation asking the Town to preserve the building and formally designate it within the Town’s Built Heritage Inventory. They did so understanding that Council had already decided on its fate, with Kroon being the lone opposition vote due to his participation in that decision.

Council will be faced with declining HAC’s requested designation and removing the site from Stouffville’s Built Heritage Inventory at their March 6 meeting. Assuming they do not change direction, a conceptual design will then be developed and presented to the public for consideration. Following public engagement, Staff will create a detailed design for approval.