Regina city council rejects Cook House owner’s applications  

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Regina city council rejects Cook House owner’s applications
WATCH: The future of Regina’s historic Cook House was the sole focus of a special city council meeting – Feb 26, 2021

A Regina homeowner and developer won’t be able to carry through with his plans to restore a heritage home and add a multi-unit condo building to the property, after council voted in favour of rejecting his applications.

Carmen Lien bought Cook House, which is located on Albert Street, in November 2018. The house received heritage status nearly a year later in October 2019.

Lien has been looking into restoring the property since he bought it so he could move his parents closer to him and in a smaller house.

The house needs many repairs. Lien told council on Thursday afternoon that there is mould damage in the ceiling due to moisture that got in through the roof.

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Lien toured Global Regina through the home on Wednesday, pointing out other needs for repairs. The home is still heated by its vintage 1922 boiler, which is leaking and whose pipes are wrapped in asbestos.

Lien has received two estimates for the cost to restore Cook House. Both of those estimates are in the $3 million range.

That is why he was proposing to build a multi-family condominium on the property with about 13 to 16 units.

Lien added that the cost of preserving some of the Cook Home’s features would still cost $1.3 million.

At Thursday’s special city council meeting, Lien said he planned to market the units to seniors and young families. His goal was to price at least 30 per cent of those units below the average cost of home in Lakeview which he estimated to be about $366,000. At least two of the units would be priced around the $325,000 mark.

Council denied applications to rezone the site, alter the heritage property and close off the adjacent part of Hill Avenue.

A proposed drawing of the redevelopment of Cook House. Courtesy Carmen Lien
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Council heard from 21 city residents and representatives, including Lien and his architect, Layne Arthur.

Residents remained mostly divided on whether they were in support of the proposal or not.

One opposed resident, Sarah Sangster, said she and her family would have to share an alleyway with the proposed development. Sangster was concerned about the increased traffic in this alley if the proposal went through.

“My own children learned to walk in the alley last summer. This summer we were planning that they would learn to use their trikes,” Sangster.

“We would not have purchased this home if we thought it was possible that in a few years there would be a three-storey condo complex built down the way,” she added.

Another neighbour to the property, Dan Turgeon, was in support of the proposed condo development.

“I believe that it will definitely offer lifetime Lakeview residents like myself a much-needed choice to stay in the neighbourhood,” Turgeon said.

He added that he was looking forward to seeing the redevelopment, believing that it would allow retired residents to stay in the area.

Council voted 9-0 in favour of rejecting the three applications put forward on this proposal.  Landon Mohl and Jason Mancinelli were absent from the vote.

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In a statement to Global News, Lien said he was disappointed in council’s decision but he respected it.

“My intention was never to divide the community, but it shows the growing concerns of our city’s future,” Lien said.

“I hope that my experience will bring to light the deficiencies of the city’s policies and procedures and that this experience will accelerate the administration’s greater accountability,” he added.

During the meeting, Mayor Sandra Masters suggested that the process of informing buyers about properties on the heritage holding list could be reviewed so that buyers could have more insight about how their renovation plans may be limited.

“The intent is to be proactive. I believe there are 227 properties on the holding list. That needs to be wholesomely reviewed and let’s take them off if they’re never going to be developed,” Masters said.

With files from Connor O’Donovan

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