What should be the future of Huntsville’s Town Hall? Have your say!

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Beautiful as it is, solid as it seems, Huntsville’s historic Town Hall is showing its age—its foundation leaks and is in need of repair, it’s woefully inefficient compared to modern construction,  and it struggles to meet the current standards for accessibility.

It has also become too small for the growing municipality it supports—when Town Hall was built in 1926, it served a population of about 3,000, a number that today exceeds 20,000 year-round residents and thousands more seasonal ones. In some departments, three staff members share an office built for one. Council Chambers are often packed to the rafters for public meetings.

Town Hall has been renovated a few times over the years. There was once an auditorium where Club 55 is today. A caretaker’s apartment occupied what is now Council Chambers. In 2006, an addition was built to house the Algonquin Theatre. And it is in need of a revamp once again.

Huntsville’s Town Hall during construction in 1926 (left) and in 1967. 

The original Town Hall auditorium, date and event unknown

The original Town Hall auditorium, date and event unknown

To address the building’s dual challenges of age and growth, Huntsville’s Town Council and a separate Town Hall Working Group—comprising Mayor Scott Aitchison, Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano and Town staff members Ingrid Armstrong, Crystal Best-Sararas, Tanya Calleja, Matt Huddlestone, Pete Kingshott, Chris Nagy, and Lisa Smith—have begun discussing possible solutions and they want the input of residents, too.

“I think council agrees that it’s important for our municipal office to continue to be somewhere in the downtown core. And we think that the building itself is certainly one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in our core and worth preserving,” said Mayor Aitchison. “We started the working group to identify some of the challenges that we have, identify the real positives and strengths of the building, and also look into the future a little bit to see what our needs as a community will be 10 or 20 years from now. And we want to engage the community in the whole issue as well.”

The municipality will be hosting two open houses to give residents a behind-the-scenes tour of Town Hall and provide information about the history of the building and its current challenges. Anyone interested in providing input into the future of Town Hall can complete an online survey.

“We want people to think boldly about it, and I think council needs to be open to other ideas,” said Aitchison. “Maybe it’s not the municipal office anymore. Maybe the whole facility becomes a cultural hub and a new municipal office is built nearby. What makes sense for our growing community? That’s what we’d like people’s ideas on.”

He encourages everyone to participate in the process. “This is their Town Hall, this is their Main Street, this is their town, and it’s their own money. Whatever we do, money is going to be spent on it. This is a pretty engaged community, and I’m pretty sure we’ll get lots of comment and lots of input. But I want people to make sure they have their say, and we’re making sure they have lots of opportunity to give it.”

The Town Hall open houses will be held on Saturday, August 17 and Saturday, September 14 between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. You can complete the Town Hall survey online any time at myhuntsville.ca.

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13 Comments

  1. Bonnie Branton on

    Huntsville was given an incredible gift- The Waterloo Centre & parking lot, overlooking Cann Lake and within walking distance of the well-used Summit Centre.

    How short sighted to have ‘disposed’ of it as excess inventory, at such a greatly reduced value.
    Now we’re left with no world class building that had unlimited combined uses (Municipal Building/Arts Centre/Medical/Stroke Rehab) & not enough return to finance a new build or even ‘renovate’ City Hall.

    Combined with giving the waterfront Train Station away for $2., (attending concert there this month), I would not entrust my real estate assets to the current think tank.
    Regrettable

  2. Bonnie Macleod on

    First and foremost this is a our Historical Landmark. Send the majority of staff somewhere else! The Theatre should have been built where there would be proper parking!! We loved the Mini Putt that was built in that location. I say no to restructuring the Theatre, build one somewhere else, put our tax money into Our Town Hall. Ya your Theatre built in 2006 needs repair already?? Have Town Hall structure repaired, times have changed and their are methods to repair easily enough!!

  3. Use the buildings the town owns now and properly maintain them. Example, the house you bought that got mould infestation as it sat there unmaintained. The side walk that drains toward the building at town hall of course you will end up with moisture in the building. Someone is not doing their job, probably walks on it every day.
    Why are you asking for public input for town hall when council meets behind closed doors to tear down a good home for a parking lot, to help a Private Curling Club.
    This cannot continue with our money or is it ?
    Why can’t the theatre be used for larger meetings?

  4. Whatever the course of action , ensure it stays Downtown….Its relocation elsewhere virtually ensures tougher times for Downtown businesses ……What’s happening in the empty lot at Main and Centre ? A multi floor structure with parking garage would work !

  5. Why would the town want to buy that lot on center and main? That’s just squandering money . And a underground parking garage lol did you see what the basement of the empire was like? The basement was made from stone and mortar and very thick walls for one and I didn’t see them take it out after the fire. The cost would be immense, not to mention the natural geology of this area who’s to say where the bedrock comes up to there.
    Spend what money you have to fix the town hall. It’s part of the town’s history and if the silly real estate deals that have been made like selling the university building hadn’t been done you could have used it. And frankly as far as my taxes go I could care less if the Algonquin theatre needs renovations already. If it’s so successful let them pay for it, not the town coffers. Worry about things that matter like affordable housing and fairvern. We are all going to need fairvern eventually whether we want to admit it or not. I’m sure in a few years if they can get fairvern moved the town will have a nice chunk of expensive land they can finance more common sense things like fixing the roads and affordable housing. The rentals in this town are over priced and a lot are sub par. I won’t even offer my opinion on air Bnb,s cause I don’t want the flack from it.

    • Wendy J. , the Town owns the Theatre , the Town built the Theatre. I didn’t suggest tearing down the Hall .If you chose to build an underground parking lot to eleviate parking woes . You would obviously do an extensive excavation and existing rock would be removed . You are right about 1/one thing however .The land where Fairvern sits would be a very valuable piece of property which I think The District owns .A developer will pay a great deal for waterfront property and the decommissioning not the existing sewage treatment plant will make more expensive! .PS…I don’t know what the basement of the Empire was like cause I didn’t spend much time or money there 😃

  6. Has the Town Hall been carefully inspected for mould? One would assume that all the trapped moisture is causing more problems than just deteriorating the foundation during the freeze-thaw cycle.
    .
    Regarding the building per se; it could serve as part-museum and part-Library storage, e.g. microfiche. The upper auditorium (if not required for the former) is a reasonable size for mid-size meetings. As a heritage building, the accessibility requirements are relaxed; to preserve the original character of the building.
    .
    As far as expanding the capacity, others have spoken to the lack of foresightedness: Surely, this problem didn’t just spring up overnight. Personally, I would have favoured the TD bank building; for its complementary design, its proximity, and the nearby parking.

    • Bonnie Branton on

      Yes, agreed; TD building would have been a very logical purchase, but ‘long term planning’ doesn’t appear to be a strong suit in this town.

    • Jim Logagianes on

      Sadly the town has a history of squandering every real estate opportunity they have had bestowed upon them. The MTO property at the west end and the MNR property on Muskoka Rd 3 are two prime examples of properties that were obtained by the town from upper tier governments and sold below market value to private interests.
      The sale of these properties were not open to the public as I recall.

  7. Terry McCaffery on

    The town hall is an iconic symbol of our great town just like the Main Street bridge or Lions Lookout! I see tourists taking photos of it almost every time I walk uptown during the summer months! I believe the town should retain and preserve this handsome building as our town hall! Perhaps the back of the building could be extended out to Minerva Street and the town could purchase the lot beside the Bell Telephone building for additional parking or this lot could be purchased and an ancillary town office could be built on it! It would be a travesty for the town to sell the town hall to any private purchaser in my humble opinion!

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