Officials issue emergency order to demolish former Preston Springs Hotel
KITCHENER -- The Chief Building Official in Cambridge has issued an Emergency Order to go ahead with the demolition of the former Preston Springs Hotel.
In a news release, Dennis Purcell cited "immediate risk to the community" in his decision, pointing to the "unsafe condition of the structure, approaching winter weather, and the ongoing challenges of securing the property from trespassers."
"Unfortunately, it has now come to a point where the structure is unsound and a threat to public safety. Anyone entering the building, including emergency or fire officials, could be placed in peril. Frankly, this is not a risk I am willing to take."
The emergency order was issued under Sec. 15.10 of the Building Code Act, which says that when there is immediate danger, the Chief Building Official can take measures to "terminate the danger," a news release said in part.
The former hotel, which once brought celebrities like Babe Ruth and Lucy Maud Montgomery through its doors, was a designated heritage property, but has been boarded up and vacant for more than two decades.
The city said it has tried to work with several owners to restore it, but have found the proposed solutions complicated and cost-prohibitive.
"Last year, two independent engineering firms, both with heritage experience, determined that the building is in poor condition which will lead to structural failure," the news release from the city read.
"A report in November reiterated these findings and found the property to be unsafe and in an advanced state of deterioration. Fire prevention officers recently issued a Fire Order due to new security breaches at the vacant building."
Purcell said the city recognizes the building's importance and that the decision was not made lightly.
"Cambridge is a city rich with history and architecture and it is always our preference to work with private owners to preserve our past," he noted.
"However, public safety is our first priority and there is no other option but to issue an Emergency Order."
Building owner Paul de Haas said the demolition order came as a "complete surprise."
"Other than the state of circumstances that has existed and been publicly aware since the original demolition order was issued in January 2020, we had no further insight," a statement from de Haas said in part. "We were working along the program that had been ordered by council to attend to a conservation review hearing some time in 2021.”
History buff Ray Ruddy said he'd like the building to be saved.
"I think they should at least try to preserve the old part of the building," he said. "I can't think in my mind of any building in Preston that's more historical."
The order does include a salvage plan to save anything that may have historical value. Demolition work is expected to start within the next week.