Described by the Mayor as a "money pit" the impressive 1800's Tuscan style George Browning house is now just a pit.
Here's a picture taken on April 4th:
I included some pics and commented on the house as well as efforts to save it in some previous posts here: http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/100-watts-the-george-t-browning-house
For some great pictures of the house prior to its demolition I would recommend a visit to the amazing photo blog LivingInAurora where the house has been profiled in a series of posts:
The analogy of a "money pit" made by the Mayor was both insulting and not fitting of the house as it already had owners that had invested money and were willing to invest more money to maintain the structure and incorporate it into the designs of a school they were proposing on the property.
The owner even designated the house demonstrating their commitment to restoration and re-use.
It wasn't until access to the house was denied from the rear of the property that the house became a target for demolition.
It seems absurd that the owner and the planning department of the town would have even remotely believed that the small lane way at the rear of the property would have provided suitable access.
The only remaining option to erect a school on that property was to provide access from Yonge St. requiring a complete regrade of the property with parking to run underneath the house therefore compromising it.
The property was not landlocked, it was simply not adequate for use as a school, but that didn't stop the owner for pushing forward with their proposal.
I don't believe providing access off Yonge Street is wise, nor a school appropriate for that property.
Given the clustering of traffic that will happen at pick-up and drop-off times throughout the day that will coincide with rush hour having a school on that property raises several traffic and safety issues not unlike the ones used to justify traffic calming measures in the NE corner.
So, if a school is approved are we going to see traffic calming implemented on Yonge Street?
The approvals process for such a development has to go through public consultation.
Which brings up the question of timetable.
Why would demolition be requested, and then acted upon well before approvals were given for the use of that property?
What happens if, or when, the proposed school is denied?
Clr. Ballard suggested that perhaps a school on that property is not the end goal.
Without the historic home and its designation there remains little obstacle to develop the property for other purposes, perhaps mixed residential and therefore be more lucrative for the current owner to flip the property if it doesn't suit their needs.
After reviewing the Hertiage Advisory report for the home, its condition, its rating and its significance I came to much different evaluation than the majority of the Heritage Advisory committee and Aurora council that rubber stamped its demolition.
Clr. Buck wanted the property to start paying its share into the town's tax base.
Fair enough, but a what cost to the town's historical landscape?
The George Browning house was a significant landmark that could have easily been restored and used as several heritage homes in Aurora are for business offices.
I don't buy the excuse of it being past the point of investment.
We only have to look a little farther north in our town to Aurora's Deifenbunker that was recently profiled in this Era Banner article here: http://www.yorkregion.com/news/article/1323058–aurora-house-holds-secret
"Cosmetically, it was a disaster, but the couple’s love for century homes trumped their fear of buying a money pit."
The only fear of the property being a money pit was from the short-sighted councillors that voted in favour of stripping the house's Heritage designation and allowing demolition.
If the town is going to adopt and implement its newly minted strategic plan focusing on both innovation and sustainability it needs to ensure that these principles extend to Aurora's heritage preservation, where the George Browning house has provided an example where there is an extreme defecit of both.
There is money to be made in Aurora's heritage, but it's never going to be found by demolishing it and then looking for it in the rubble.