Cardus nears final approval to restore Balfour House
HAMILTON, ON – Local think tank Cardus has cleared a major hurdle to final approval for their plan to restore and re-open Balfour House, near Garth and Fennell on the West Mountain. After almost 18 months of preparation and review, officials have confirmed that Cardus’s Balfour plan fully complies with the Ontario Building Code and zoning standards, including for accessibility, building use, life safety, and fire prevention.
“Of course, the building permit will not be issued until all the agreements are in place, however, this uncommon step to proceed through the rigorous and detailed requirements for building code approval was a key element required for the support of the Ontario Heritage Trust”, says Michael Van Pelt, President of Cardus. “I am thankful for the cooperation of City of Hamilton staff in this effort.”
Balfour, also called Chedoke Estate, has been closed to the public since 2013. With the support of local neighbours and descendants of the Balfour family, and with the help of Canada’s top heritage architect and co-author of Canada’s heritage standards and guidelines, Cardus has proposed a minimalist restoration plan that allows for a small office and retreat space, while protecting all 57 heritage characteristics defined by the province for the site.
“We’ve spent a year-and-a-half making sure every detail of our Open Balfour plan meets the City’s technical and safety requirements,” said Van Pelt. “At the same time, our heritage architects are crafting a careful restoration plan. Now we’re looking forward to the Trust’s concurrence and to finally completing an agreement that honours the Trust as owners and the City as stewards of Balfour.”
Under the terms of the original 1979 lease, since extended through 2039, the City of Hamilton is mandated to “develop, maintain, preserve, administer and supervise” Balfour akin to the City’s treatment of its own heritage properties. The Trust, as owner, retains approval of “new buildings or structures upon the Property.” The City also requires the Trust’s approval prior to changes “materially affect[ing] the appearance or construction of the exterior of the Buildings.”
The Trust had signalled since 2019 that the Balfour proposal depended on Hamilton’s building code green light. The proposal will now see the Trust and Cardus will work out the particular heritage protections in the final design process.
On February 26, 2020 Hamilton City Council voted overwhelmingly to direct municipal staff to negotiate a sublease agreement with Cardus for Balfour House, subject to Trust heritage approvals. Cardus has since submitted multiple studies regarding heritage-preservation, architectural, engineering, and building code requirements to municipal officials. Cardus has offered to restore and re-open the historic property at no cost to the City while also committing to facilitating public access to the restored property in keeping with the low traffic and low impact requirements of the surrounding neighbourhood.
The Open Balfour plan already has the endorsement of David Balfour, grandson of Ethel Southam Balfour and St. Clair Balfour, who lived in the house through the first half of the 20th century. Mr. Balfour has urged the city to negotiate a lease with Cardus, noting that he’s “delighted” by the “vision for restoring this beautiful home to its former glory so that this piece of Hamilton history is not lost.”
Cardus is thankful for the partnership and philanthropic support of the following companies: Budget Group of Companies, Schilthuis Construction, Invizij Architects, and Almex Group. More details on Cardus’s plans for Balfour House, including Indigenous consultation and engagement, are available at www.openbalfour.ca.
Cardus – Director of Communications
Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society's institutions can work together for the common good.