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The Grand Hotel will be closing by the end of the month. Photo: Roderick Benns.

Could Grand Experience become a franchise restaurant? ‘It’s a historical landmark’

in Business/Municipal by
The Grand Hotel will be closing by the end of the month. Photo: Roderick Benns.

Mayor Andy Letham says the Grand Hotel buildings were sold sometime in the past week or so – again – and the new owners must have quickly decided to evict the restaurant owner from the building.

APG Kent Street Properties Corp had plans for the properties at 171-185 Kent Street that would have included retail stores, a restaurant, and offices on the upper floors. Mid-pandemic, the buildings have now been sold again.

Mayor Andy Letham.

Letham said he heard the news just recently and didn’t know who the new owners were or what their plans were for the buildings.

Melissa McFarland, manager of the downtown BIA, says she doesn’t know what the new owner’s plans are either but she’s pretty sure the new owners are “not local.”

“If their plan is to put a restaurant in there maybe they want their own restaurant there, like a franchise.”

They likely already have a plan, she says, which is why Grand owner Charlie McDonald would have been served with notice so quickly.

“These kind of corporations want to buy the whole building not just rent,” she says, so that there’s total control.

A franchise restaurant is more common to see on Kent Street West — not in the downtown — and McFarland says she is only surmising but agreed it would be “a shame” not to have something unique like the Grand in that space.

“It’s a huge loss for the downtown,” says McFarland. “Everybody from this community has an experience there. It’s a historical landmark.”

“Any business is a loss of course but we’re losing a mainstay in the downtown,” she tells the Advocate.

It’s a loss in other ways, too, especially for the BIA. McDonald has been the chair of the BIA for more than seven years and without a business he won’t be able to carry on that role, McFarland notes.

“It’s disappointing,” agrees Letham. “The Grand has been a big part of Lindsay and the whole community for ages.”

Letham says APG had some “pretty exciting plans” for the buildings and he’s disappointed that won’t go ahead.

“I’m not sure what the new owner has in mind,” the mayor says.

However, Letham believes the Grand “was always on a bit of borrowed time” after the new developer bought it.

“So much of the building is not being utilized. It was bound to change.”

The Grand is a designated heritage building – but that doesn’t mean it’s safe from being drastically altered – or even knocked down.

When APG Kent Street Properties Corp shared their plans with Kawartha Lakes City Council, they had to go through a process with the heritage committee first, Letham says.

The building couldn’t be saved, says the mayor, in terms of the plans APG had for it and he says a heritage building “can be knocked down.”

In this case, the heritage committee signed off on their plans to incorporate some of the design and history of the original building into the new one.

Now, the mayor has no idea what the new company’s plans are – but unless they’re going to go forward with the previous company’s vision, they will have to go through the process with the city’s heritage committee, just like APG had to do.

However, McFarland says that might mean simply agreeing to keep certain aspects of the Grand Hotel facade — the only heritage part of the buildings in question.

Emily Turner, economic development officer – heritage planning, says any proposed redevelopment of the site “would have to adhere to the guidelines in the downtown Lindsay heritage conservation district plan and would require approval from both the municipal heritage committee and council.”

In 2016, council approved a plan for redeveloping the property which would have included demolishing the designated property, says Turner.

“The approval for this project predates the designation of the downtown Lindsay heritage conservation district. A new plan for redevelopment would also have to go through the same approvals process,” Turner says.

Grand Hotel owner, Charlie McDonald, could not be reached before publication time.

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also on the communications team of the Basic Income Canada Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.

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