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Diocese would like financial support to keep ?orphanage?

BY RICK PUSIAK Sudbury?s second oldest building has been saved from the wrecking ball ? at least for now. The city?s planning committee has turned down an application to demolish 38 Xavier St.

Sudbury?s second oldest building has been saved from the wrecking ball ? at least for now.

The city?s planning committee has turned down an application to demolish 38 Xavier St., a structure constructed in 1894 as a French Catholic school. Under property rules, however, the matter can be revisited in 180 days.

There were hints during a media scrum after the meeting that the demolition permit application was designed to raise awareness of the historical importance of the structure.

Diocesan financial administrator Pat Dubreuil said raising the issue was akin to raising a red flag to the community.

?I guess we could call it somewhat of a strategy,? said Dubreuil. ?We have to look at it as a viable strategy and opportunity for us to keep this building alive, this property alive.?

Dubreuil said it is now up to the city and the community to put its money where its mouth is.

He didn?t focus on a specific amount of dollars, but in an earlier interview the financial administrator said if someone wanted to come forward and put $500,000 to $1 million into this property to keep it as a heritage site the diocese would have no problem with that. The diocese, however, would still retain ownership of the building and property.

L?ecole St. Louis de Gonzague was turned into an orphanage in 1929 by Rev. Napoleon Pare and the Grey Nuns of Nicolet. Until last July the now vacant building, owned by the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, was home to Centre Franco-Ontarien de Folklore.

Laurentian University former president Dr. Henry Best noted at the meeting, ?Sudbury has already lost, often quite unnecessarily far too much of our heritage. The old post office, the Nickel Range Hotel?are only a few of the examples of our building heritage that has been unnecessarily destroyed.?

Best, a member of the board of the Centre Franco-Ontarien de Folklore, said his group made several offers to buy the building, in order that they could apply for funds to renovate the structure, something they could not do as tenants.

The offers were refused, he said

?We were informed the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie wanted to use the building as a residence for his excellency the bishop,? said Best. ?...We were astounded to hear only a few days ago the diocese wanted to destroy this landmark...?

Best said he received numerous calls expressing support for the campaign to save the historical building.

French cultural centre executive director Denis Brouillette said the rehabilitation of a heritage landmark can become a focal point of community renewal and a powerful symbol of revitalization.

?The official plan of Sudbury states that it shall be the policy of council to carefully assess the historic worth of significant sites and buildings before irreversible decisions are made,? said Brouillette.

?We believe that to carefully assess the situation, more time is needed to allow stakeholders the opportunity to find alternative solutions viable to both the owners and the community?we just want a chance to see what we can do collectively.?

Brouillette said the D?Youville building has a significant historical and cultural place in the hearts of Sudbury?s 50,000 francophones as well as others in Ontario and across Canada.

He told council his organization is aware of governmental funding agencies that would entertain proposals for various uses of D?Youville, significantly curbing the costs associated with retrofitting and refurbishing the historical site.

?Just recently a young woman from Vancouver came to us because she wanted to visit the site where here mother and her aunt had been raised,? said the Centre Franco-Ontarien de Folklore executive director.

?We were convinced of the emotional, cultural, educational and religious value of this impressive monument to francophones, the Grey Nuns of Ottawa and Jesuit history in Greater Sudbury,? said Brouillette.

During the planning committee meeting Dubreuil denied Best?s claim the diocese wanted to keep the property for a new home for the bishop.

?Basically the decision that was taken this evening is something that the diocese expected,? said ?We?re very comfortable with this decision because it gives us 180 days to basically find partners for this structure. It?s all positive.?


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