Recently the question has been raised again about just what to do with the Preston Springs Hotel? The grand, old building facing the corner of the busy intersection where Fountain and King Streets meet has been the proverbial “elephant in the room” for many years in our community. It serves as one of the gateways of our community, yet has fallen into disrepair. Sitting vacant for over a quarter century, the time has come to deal with the problem that exists in Preston one way or the other. Here’s a look at a few of the options available for this heritage building.
1. Restore The Existing Building
This is the option most people would love to see, though also it seems to be the least attainable. Over the years many, many developers have tried to take a crack at the idea of restoring the former Del Monte Hotel, only to put the property back on the market yet again. There are many challenges involved with bringing this beautiful building back to its former glory. The first is parking. While the most recent owner Paul de Haas of the property has acquired property around the building and claims that parking isn’t an issue. The reality is the property is just awkward. There is no parking access from Fountain Street, and if there were it would probably be a calamity given the flow of traffic along that street. The existing parking is accessed from behind, on Abraham Street. One of the biggest questions is what would be what purpose would this building serve when pouring millions of dollars to restore it?
Mayor Doug Craig suggested to turning it into affordable housing, but I don’t see how this is even a viable option. To become a home for low-income earners the building would have to clear many of the same roadblocks that resulted in the recently announced closure of St Luke’s Place in Hespeler. If they couldn’t manage the cost of installing proper sprinkler systems in a 42-year-old building, one can only imagine the cost of installing them in a 128 year old building. And if it’s meant to be a modern living space much of the electrical would need to be upgraded to accommodate the technology needs of 21st century renters. If the wiring is anything like the century home my parents owned when I was growing up, this could be a huge issue.
2. Knock It Down And Start Over
This is obviously the nuclear option. The building is decaying at an alarming rate, many of the windows are broken, leaving the interior of the property susceptible to the elements. The City recently erected temporary boarding over many of the windows, securing the building, but making it even more of an eyesore than with the broken windows in view. It’s been in disrepair for a few years now and who knows what type of damage exposure to a few Canadian winters might have had on the property.
The reality with this building is that it’s collateral damage in the era of the automobile. It was built in the era of horse and buggy. The region grew and the intersection it overlooks has become a vital artery for traffic in Preston and Cambridge. To see it restored to any semblance of function will need a huge amount of public money. If you weren’t a fan of the cost required to save the Old Post Office building in Galt, that would pale in comparison to the cost of saving the Preston Springs from the public coffers. In the end it may just make more sense to demolish instead of letting it decay before our eyes year after year.
3. Partial Demolition and Restoration
One option I could see being viable is demolishing a part of the building and keeping the rest. I’ll admit that I’m just spitballing this idea, but stick with me here. Assuming this is structurally possible to do, my suggestion would be to knock down the left side of the building.
One of the big issues with the building is the sheer size of it. If it’s not practical as a living space, then it makes sense to cut down on the amount of space footage required to maintain for the property. What’s left of the building is the symmetrical tower, with 2 windows on either side. This would remove almost 2/3 of the building and allow us to keep a workable amount of the structure and the façade that faces directly down King Street. It also might make the space workable for the amount of parking that is available around back of the property.
What To Do With This Smaller Preston Springs?
With the more manageable size of the building, we could then look at a smaller scale project to fill the space. Last year I had the opportunity to check out the Guelph Civic Museum and really think this is something we could work towards. This museum was itself a heritage restoration project, restoring the Loretto Convent building into a beautiful public facility. The museum has a great permanent display on Guelph’s history, as well as space for touring exhibits to display. If you haven’t checked it out, it’s definitely worth popping into Guelph for.
One thing I’ve long felt about Cambridge is that we do a terrible job of celebrating our own identity. We spend so much time worrying about the divides of Galt, Preston and Hespeler that we forget we’ve been a united community for nearing on 50 years. There is no consolidated place for Cambridge’s history to exist. Our sports hall of fame is located in a shopping mall. In Hespeler, The Company of Neighbours works to keep up a record of their history. How cool would it be if there was a museum where our shared history could be told? Maybe the Cambridge archives(now located at City Hall) could move into this facility as well?
Do The Springs Still Work?
Maybe there’s someway we could get the hot springs functioning again in the basement. It would be awesome way to celebrate Preston’s heritage by having a functioning sulfur spring.
What does the future hold for the Preston Springs?
It’s pretty tough to tell at this point. The current owners seem content to just let the property decay and without a push from the City I’m not sure much will happen. And if the City does step in, I’d think it would be a tough pill to swallow for taxpayers in this City after a few large projects like the Old Post Office and Multiplex have been added to the tax bill. Maybe someone comes in with a grand idea to restore this heritage property to its former glory. Only time will tell. We can only hope something happens while the building is still in good enough shape to restore.
Will the LRT stop there?
Would be great to see this majestic heritage building turned into a bunch of mini stores or shops inside. A sulphur spring spa, coffee shops, bakeries, artist galleries, flower shops, restaurants, meeting space or space for weddings etc. and a market for local vendors. We are too quick to let things decay till they need to be demolished . The UK has many beautiful structures that are restored and modern added on. It’s stunning and smart to preserve our Canadian heritage structures.
I’ve long said the government should buy it and turn it into an amazing “saloon” themed casino. They could buy the empty lot that sits across the street and build a parking garage that has a bridge walkway across fountain street into the casino! We all know how much money a casino generates. It’s likely the only party who’d have enough money to do anything viable and profitable would be the government.
I think both of those options are really good. I don’t think it needs to be turned into housing, but a public market, or casino would be cool! Something to add to the community that will give all the residents something to do, I think a museum is a neat idea as well.
We visited Miami Beach last winter and they are undergoing major building makeovers. The beautiful “Art Deco” buildings were falling into decay. A decision was made as it was far to expensive to renovate the buildings so they are repairing the fronts of the buildings so that it keeps the “Art Deo” feel but behind the front of the building is a brand new state of the art structure. I think this could be done here. This building has been such a wonderful landmark, it would be a shame if it disappeared.This then give this building the chance to be anything you want. All of the suggestions could work really well. Love the thought that the “Suffer Springs” could be used again. Hopefully, this will open up a whole new conversation.
I like James Harris’s concept: truncate the structure to two windows on either side of the tower, restore it as the Cambridge museum, and use the demolished real estate for parking with a garden on the embankment as was in the days of the Del Monte Hotel.
I love this building….there are many possibilities…just look at what Hamilton has done to many of their old buildings….they have even turned old school buildings into apartment/condo units….not everyone has to have a car….the people that live here could be older retired couple or singles that don’t drive….a bike lane nearby or perhaps if there is room across the road to build a parking lot, like the go train…eventually a train or LRT could run through there one day…
I love seeing this Hotel. It’s part of Cambridge History but it will crumble beyond repair if something isn’t done to save it. I think that the hotel should be restored to a ( helping hand residance) for the homeless/addicted who really want to turn their lives around. I’m sure that within that population there are carpenters, plumbers, drywallers etc. If not, I’m sure they could learn. Hire a foreman or two. This would give them an address and a feeling of self worth and the city would save on building expenses. They could also received OW which would give them back their pride. Upon completion, each person accepted could move in. Have a job specialist and addiction worker on site. There is an agency who supply business attire free for job interviews. Then if the person gets the job, they will supply up to 5 outfits. Do this on a rotating bases 6 months to a year. We all want to tackle the homeless problem but none knows what to do. We all want the hotel restored and Cambridge to return to what it once was. I would love for a think tank to get on this idea. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn’t….it’s just my thought.