After more than a year and about $2 million spent on restoration and re-construction, the Queen’s Hotel on Main Street Unionville is set to re-open.
The hotel, built in the 1870s, was damaged during a fire last March.
Since then, the owner has been working to preserve the historic building.
“This street is recognized because of this building,” said James Hussaini, president of Business Point, a co-working office space company that owns the building.
“This building is in every picture. There are a lot of emotions attached to this building.”
Preserving the bricks and mortar was the priority, for the business and for himself.
“Even I have an emotional attachment to this building,” said Hussaini, who worked in a highrise prior to starting his own business.
He remembers a photo on the wall showing the hotel in the late 19th century.
“There were no cars,” he said. “There were horses in the photo. That type of history creates an attachment.”
The cause of the fire was sourced back to a malfunctioning potlight in the ceiling of a retail store on the ground floor.
“It was a stubborn fire,” said Neelo Ahmadi, hotel restoration project manager. “It’s because it was an older building, it went quickly. Thank goodness there were no injuries.”
While there was little damage to the exterior, there was extensive smoke and water damage to the interior.
The interior of the building is brand new. The restoration process included new electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems as well as extensive fire-proofing measures.
“We want to make sure this never happens again,” Ahmadi said. “The good news is it’s all new and the outside is preserved.”
With any restoration, there were ups and downs.
While the city toed the line when it came to preserving heritage, as it should Hussaini said, he never expected the process to drag on more than a year.
At one point, their insurance company wanted to take down part of the exterior wall along Main Street.
It took about six months to settle that debate between city and insurer.
“We weren’t looking for financial help,” Huassini said. “But we thought because it was a heritage building, the process would be expedited.”
The fire and the restoration process took a toll on several businesses in the building and Business Point lost a few tenants.
But the restored building will be home to a couple of boutique retail shops on the ground level and a slew of businesses on the second and third levels including a lawyer, real estate agent, wedding planner and mortgage broker.
There was some discussion about transforming the building into an indoor mall with several small retail and boutique shops, while maintaining the historical integrity of the exterior.
The mall would have added another attraction to the street, especially during winter, Hussaini said.
But after pushback, he kept the original plan – executive office spaces and a business centre.
If all stays on track, Business Point will open by the end of the month, just in time for the summer when Main Street is at its busiest.
“We’re excited,” Ahmadi said. “We can’t wait to open again. It’s very emotional.”
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