Demolition continued Friday at the site of the Preston Springs Hotel in Cambridge.
Crews carried out the work as laid out in an emergency order, despite push back from heritage advocates and some city councillors.
By mid-afternoon on New Year’s Day only about one-third of the structure remained standing.
On Dec. 24, the city’s Chief Building Officer issued an emergency demolition order for the former hotel.
Dennis Purcell said the aging structure needed to be torn down as “a matter of public safety.”
“It’s a building that’s in an advanced state of deterioration,” he said.
Demolition began around 8 a.m. on Thursday morning.
Just before noon, crews were told to stop working due a court injunction.
The Cambridge branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) wanted to delay the demolition because the building was protected under the Heritage Act.
Even though the court injunction was approved, the emergency order by the city’s Chief Building Official overrides the Heritage Act.
In a statement issued Thursday, Dennis Purcell said he didn’t receive advance notice from the ACO about the application before demolition began. “Earlier today [Thursday], I was informed of a potential court challenge and, in good faith, halted demolition activity to more fully understand the situation.”
Members of the ACO visited the site after receiving the court injunction and then determined that crews could continue working because the partial demotion made the building unsafe.
In a statement to CTV News they said: "Circumstances shifted rapidly, and the consequence is that the city will finish the demolition despite the ACO branch’s best efforts to preserve the designated landmark."
Some Cambridge councillors are voicing their frustration over how the process was handled.
“It happened too quickly, over the holidays, in the middle of the pandemic, when there’s a lockdown,” said Nicholas Ermeta. “I didn’t feel there was adequate time for the public to respond.”
He says the demolition order was not a city council decision and wishes there was more he could have done.
“It caught us all by surprise, myself included.”
Another councilor, Jan Liggett, also addressed the matter on her Facebook page, saying: “I do not agree with the actions being taken to demolish Preston Springs, nor the manner in which this has transpired.”
She also voiced her objection to an email that she was advised to send to residents who expressed their concerns to city council.
“I do not agree with this email response which was requested of staff to write on our behalf,” she said on Facebook.
On Friday, some local residents stood outside the construction zone to take one last look at the former hotel.
“They took the historical part first,” said one. “I think they did it on purpose really because they just wanted it down.”
Another said: “They didn’t do all they could and I feel like they snuck it through over the Christmas holidays.”
A third told CTV News they “could’ve done it easier, get the people involved, work together. That would have benefitted everybody.”
The demolition is expected to continue through the weekend, and wrap up Sunday night.
-- With reporting by Carmen Wong