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Heritage advocates call on council to save Robert McLaughlin House

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

A group of local heritage advocates have come together to try to save the Robert McLaughlin House on Simcoe Street North from being torn down.

To date, a petition has garnered just under 2,000 signatures ahead of Monday’s council meeting in the hopes of saving the home from demolition.

Heritage advocate Cathy Clarke, who started the petition, says the fact the petition has garnered as much support as it has in less than a week shows there is a desire to keep the building and that other options should be entertained.

Clarke says one of the great concerns is the historic significance the building brings to the city, in particular to the city’s automotive history, as Robert McLaughlin himself lived there for 19 years.

“A lot of people who have history with working for GM realize that over the years it has made such a difference,” she says, noting it’s been a major employment centre and it has been huge in terms of the generosity to the city.

“It’s become an economic driver, but also a social and cultural driver for the city, and a great source of pride,” she adds.

Clarke notes the building also has significance due to its proximity to Parkwood Estate, as well as Lakeridge Health Oshawa.

She says the building doesn’t have to be used as a residence, but rather it could be an adaptive reuse.

“We’re looking at other options…such as a hospice, or a Ronald McDonald house, something of that nature,” she explains. “There’s the opportunity to have it be a place for cancer patients and their families to stay while they’re undergoing cancer treatments.”

She notes these are the kinds of things that can help give the property even more prominence, as these were the types of issues that were very close to the McLaughlin’s aims and issues in the city.

Clarke says she’s hoping for a scenario that’s a win-win for everybody.

“What we’re looking for is to deny the demolition permit for now and let’s see if we can work something out in terms of an alternate use for this property,” she says. “If we could combine a heritage and a health option, and combine them both to work for the community in this building, then that would be the ultimate win-win situation.”

Sherland Chhangur of Nantuck Investments Inc, the owner of the property at 195 Simcoe St. N., contacted the city in early February to formally request a permit to demolish the property.

The property currently sits vacant after sustaining damage from a fire that occurred in April 2019.

The fire caused damage to the roof and floor structures, the exterior wall assemblies, and the exterior finishes, according to a report.

An environmental assessment for combustion by-products and mould throughout the property was conducted, and upon review, it was recommended by the third-party company that the building be demolished.

According to the report, restoring the property comes with “several challenges” and that demolition would “require less time and resources, making the project more efficient and significantly more cost-effective.

Clarke states in the petition that Oshawa has had several landmark buildings that had fallen into disrepair only to be brought back to life, including the downtown Regent Theatre, which was slated and prepped for demolition, Pinewood, which was slated for demolition and is now incorporated into the rehabilitation centre for Lakeridge Health, and the Genosha Hotel, which was repurposed as luxury apartments, called 70 King.

“These buildings are part of the fabric of Oshawa, as is The Robert McLaughlin House at 195 Simcoe St. N.,” the petition reads.

“It is a heritage house…our heritage. The house needs repairs from years of damage and neglect, and it’s up to us to work together to save this part of Oshawa’s history. It can be restored to continue the incredible legacy of the McLaughlin family.”

The report comes to council at its next meeting on Monday, Feb. 22.

Those interested in signing the petition to save The Robert McLaughlin House can visit