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Historical community worried about the sale of London’s Old Court House

Bill Rayburn speaking to Sylvia Chodas and Doug Cairns about the sale of the Old Court House.
Bill Rayburn speaking to Sylvia Chodas and Doug Cairns about the sale of the Old Court House. Sawyer Bogdan/ 980 CFPL

Some Londoners are expressing concern about Middlesex County’s approval of the sale of the Old Court House building at 399 Ridout St.

The Middlesex County Economic Development Corporation met Wednesday to approve the sale of 50 King St., which, along with the Old Court House, was bought by York Developments.

“I am concerned and the heritage community is concerned this public property is going into private hands and therefore wouldn’t be looked after in the same way that a public property would,” Sylvia Chodas said.

Chodas was the only speaker on the agenda before the members cast their votes. She was at the meeting as a concerned citizen but is also a member of the Architecture Conservancy of Ontario and the London Middlesex Historical Society.

Following the meeting, she and several other members in the gallery questioned the county’s chief administrative officer, Bill Rayburn, about the decision to sell the Old Court House. They were upset about what they said was a lack of public input.

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Rayburn disputed that assertion said the plans to sell the property, which is currently the headquarters for Middlesex County, are nothing new. He said the plan to develop and rezone the property to get it ready for sale was made five years ago, at which time members of the public had the opportunity to give feedback.

Rayburn also said the historic building would be protected.

“The protections that are in place are at their maximum level… and will live well beyond our ownership and future ownership,” he said.

Western University history professor Mark Tovey, who was at the meeting, is not convinced.

“National historic site status offers no protection for the building,” he said. “The designation for the building is very old, which means it offers very few specific protections.”

On Nov. 27, Middlesex County announced the conditional agreement with York Developments for the sale of the property.

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York Developments president Ali Soufan said at the time that he plans to maintain the historical appeal of 399 Ridout St. – initially built in 1830.

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“We will enhance it, we will respect it and we will develop a mixed-use community around it that will complement it,” Soufan said.

Soufan would not go into specifics about what that means.

The conditional period of the deal ends on Dec. 16, after which time the county said more details of the sale will be revealed.

The sale will be finalized in April.