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103-year-old building to meet wrecking ball

Historic Hollinger Mine office building, cursed by its own insulation, is coming down in 2018

For nearly 103 years it has been a part of the Timmins skyline, but by next summer it will become just a memory.

Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines has confirmed that the historic Hollinger Mines office building, located near the intersection of Algonquin Boulevard East and Highway 655, will be demolished at some point in 2018.

"There's no definitive date right now, but the plan is to take it down. It's an older building. It's got quite a bit of issues, obviously in terms of accessibility. It has asbestos throughout the entire building, and there's a lot of liability with that building," said PGM Sustainability Manager Bryan Neeley.

He said the demolition of the building is part of the 'overall closure planning' for the mine operations. The company wants it done in 2018, and they have been actively having the required studies completed to make it happen.

Currently, there is nobody working in the building.

"Over the last few years, I've only been with the company for two years, but since I've been here we've had some people working for the Hollinger Open Pit, in there at one point."

There had also been people from Goldcorp's new Borden operations in Chapleau (200 kilometres southwest of Timmins) working out of the building. The company expects commercial production to begin at the Borden site in 2019.

"That building has been empty since spring, maybe even late winter of 2017, so its been between six and nine months that it's been shut down," said Neeley.

There is a communications tower which sits atop the building, which is still well used.

"Its use for us right now is for communications within the open pit. There's also a Christian radio station who also uses that tower. We don't own the tower, but the tower is on top of our building." 

Neeley said Goldcorp is in negotiations with the owner of the tower and coming up with alternatives, but said that its 'quite early in the process.'

Clearly there will be some in the community who will be upset with losing another significant historical structure in a city which generally does a poor job of preserving its past. In fact, the city received a letter of request from a local man, Darcy Bouley, which was included in the Oct. 24 agenda. Boulay asked the city to postpone issuing the demolition permit until receiving feedback and potentially pursuing historical grant money.

"Our landscape is forever changing at an alarming rate, with very little notice or dialogue with local business and its residents," read Boulay's letter. 

"When compared to the city of Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, North Bay, and even Rouyn-Noranda, we seem to be falling behind in the preservation and conservation of our finest and rich historical buildings," he added.

There were no comments by any member of council or staff during the meeting.

Neeley said that Boulay is in fact the owner of the communications tower, and that from a company's perspective 'the decision has been made.'

"There's is no investments going into the building, and even selling it really isn't a valid option due to the liabilities that are there."

Hollinger office building eveningThe sun is setting on the 103 year old Hollinger office building. Andrew Autio for TimminsToday

Unfortunately the serious hazard of asbestos is the biggest factor in the demise of the building.

"There's an asbestos management plan in place. So we've identified the different locations. There are some parts of the building that people can't go into, or need to be properly protected if any work is going to be done in the building," said Neeley.

As it was with the demolition of the old Extendicare building in Schumacher for Goldcorp, tearing down a building laced with hazardous materials is a delicate process.

"For us it will be making sure that we hire the right, competent consultant to design the demolition, and contractor to follow through with it. We know its not your regular demolition project. So we're still working on the protocols and packages," said Neeley.

Local historian and curator of the Timmins Museum Karen Bachmann is among those who will be sad to see it go. 

"Timmins has very few 100-year-old buildings left. It is sad to see one of the not only local, but nationally significant buildings set for demolition. Northern Ontario's industrial heritage is slowly disappearing piece by piece," she said.

The three-storey building was constructed in 1915 and served as the headquarters of the Hollinger Mine until it ceased operations in 1968. All-brick buildings were quite rare in the area at the time of its construction which Bachmann said is quite significant.

"It was an indicator of the confidence they had in the mine and the town."

Goldcorp still has to finalize with their stakeholder, the tower owner, before an exact demolition date can be set but Neeley fully expects it be done next summer.