For casual passersby on Norfolk Street, the Guelph civic museum, formerly known as the Loretto Convent, rises like the fortress on the hill.
Four years ago, city staff told council the conversion of the pre-Confederation convent, empty for more than ten years, would cost $12,700,000. Even with senior government grants, the cost to taxpayers would be $6,700,000.
It was the brainchild of Coun. Leanne Piper, former chair of the Guelph Heritage group, to move the civic museum to the convent serving two purposes: Restoring a heritage icon and creating a new home for the overcrowded museum on Dublin Street.
That was then and this is now. The cost has escalated to more than $16 million with the announcement that an additional $1 million was needed to landscape the project. Those are the admitted estimates. Funds spent in the past four years to meet contract changes and more importantly, to rebuild the foundation of the aged structure, have not been revealed.
The resulting heritage thrill on the hill has a multistory glass fascia making the building about as authentic as the Magic Kingdom Castle at Disney World.
The raison d’etre for this multi-million dollar enterprise was to save and preserve a pre-Confederation building.
On top of that, displays cannot be put on the second floor because of structural deterioration.
Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Like many city projects, bad planning, cost overruns and disregard for the unintended circumstances, projects are delayed interminably. There are examples of this all over the city as stimulus sponsored projects remain incomplete and unfinished.
Having said that, why hasn’t the city announced an opening date for the new museum? Because they can’t?