The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) of Port Hope posed a most unusual challenge when it sought to convey a long-shuttered 1871 concert hall to someone who could put it to beneficial community use. This magnificent, 4,300 gsf upper floor room had been badly damaged by HVAC upgrades, but the former owner of the facility had decided to donate the entire building for $1 after vacating the premises. The ACO was willing to receive it on behalf of the community, but only on condition that someone else would undertake the restoration and operation of the building. A NetGain team analyzed the building’s needs and potential, then sought to identify appropriate uses and users. Unfortunately the town and surrounding area had no one who could restore and operate the facility successfully without substantial investments in hospitality services, programming, and marketing. In short, the building’s long term survival depended on the attraction of people, money, and programming from outside the vicinity. At the ACO’s request, NetGain outlined the process of a province wide RFEOI process to identify prospective operators and identified an individual impresario that might spare them that long, arduous process. Based on NetGain’s analysis, recommendations, and encouraged by the candidate they’d found, the ACO began the process of transferring title from the donor (Royal Bank of Canada), concluding the deal in September 2019.
In the meantime, NetGain has worked pro bono with the lead candidate to help develop plans to leverage this keystone heritage structure into an extensive economic renewal plan, involving regenerative agriculture, locavore restaurants, visiting international chefs, boutique hotels, natural conservation tours, and world class arts programming.