According to the Hamilton Spectator, City council voted last night to approve LIUNA's demolition permit for the Lister Block, but with the proviso that it be delayed for 60 days to explore more fully the heritage impacts of destroying the building.
The last-minute deal was hammered out in a conference call between Mayor Larry Di Ianni, LIUNA president Joe Mancinelli, and someone from the Ontario Ministry of Culture. City Council voted 9-4 to approve it.
This makes good political sense, however you might feel about it. There was a good chance that the Ontario Ministry of Culture would step in and declare the Lister a provincial heritage building, stopping LIUNA's demolition plans in their tracks. With the conditional approval, City Council gets to look like it's making a compromise and keeps the issue under local control.
The article reports, "The Ministry of Culture wants to call all the players to the table to discuss the best solution for the controversial building, Mayor Larry Di Ianni told councillors."
The real test of the city and LIUNA is whether this planned meeting represents an honest effort on LIUNA's part to fulfil its legal obligation to investigate restoration and adaptive re-use or is merely a series of motions to take the mickey out of the campaign to save the building.
It will also demonstrate whether Caroline Di Cocco, the Ontario Minister of Culture, is willing to wade into the fray and protect the building if the discussion turns out to be a sham.
Lister supporters deserve the opportunity to make an economically viable case for restoration and adaptive re-use. LIUNA has a legal responsibility to give that case a fair hearing. The City has a legal responsibility to encourage and facilitate restoration if at all possible.
Finally, the neighbouring residents and business owners deserve a timely resolution. If LIUNA doesn't get its way, this is no time for Joe Mancinelli to pick up his toys and go home, leaving the Lister to rot for several more years.
If LIUNA doesn't see restoration as a good opportunity, then they should sell the building to someone who does and let the work begin.
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