A century after they were constructed, the Kerr Apartments are no more.
It’s a sad ending for a beautiful building that was home to hundreds of individuals and families over the decades.
It’s also disturbing that a heritage building can be demolished without any public process. Although the Kerr was on the city’s heritage register, that didn’t provide it with any protection from being torn down.
Of the city’s estimated 350 heritage buildings, only 13 are actually municipally designated sites, which require an owner to apply for a heritage alteration permit before making changes. (Coincidentally, the Nelson Star’s office is among this baker’s dozen.)
In those cases, owners normally request such a designation because it helps them seek provincial restoration funding. Although the city can unilaterally declare municipal heritage sites, it opens them up to paying compensation.
That actually happened last year in Victoria, where an arbitrator awarded Rogers’ Chocolates about $600,000 plus legal costs after the city designated the interior of their Government Street store a heritage site in a bid to prevent alterations. However, this was an extreme case.
Was it really necessary to tear down the Kerr’s granite walls? Hard to say.
We weren’t privy to the engineer’s reports, but owner Armand Olender and fire chief Simon Grypma both say it was very doubtful the structure could be saved.
All that’s left is a bit of the ground floor front wall, including the front entrance arch and datestone — eerily mirroring a front page photo illustration that appeared in the Star soon after the fire.
Thankfully, it appears this part will be incorporated into a new building or otherwise preserved as a reminder of the Kerr.
Nelson prides itself on its heritage buildings, and it is a dark day indeed when we let one go.