New Life for the Historic Balfour Estate

One of Hamilton’s oldest historical structures looks to finally have some new life (and investment) breathed into it as the picturesque Balfour Estate has potentially found a new tenant.

Pending approval by the Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT), Cardus will lease the property from the City after Council recently voted in favour of moving forward pending the OHT’s approval for “intensity of use” and “adaptive reuse” plans.

For more information, please continue reading below…

Hello Ward 8 Neighbours,

One of Hamilton’s oldest historical structures looks to finally have some new life (and investment) breathed into it as the picturesque Balfour Estate has potentially found a new tenant.

Pending approval by the Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT), Cardus will lease the property from the City after Council recently voted in favour of moving forward pending the OHT’s approval for “intensity of use” and “adaptive reuse” plans.

Balfour’s Historical Background

The Balfour Estate, which is located on 1 Balfour Drive and also known as the “Chedoke Estate” is an early stone manor house and a coach house located on what at that time would had been large picturesque grounds.

The property was acquired in 1834 by William Scott Burn, who completed the original manor house in 1836. A significant addition was added in the 1850s and the property had changed hands several times before being purchased in 1909 by William Southam, editor of the Hamilton Spectator.

In 1910, Ethel May Southam (daughter of William) married St. Clair Balfour and moved into Chedoke Estate – it being a gift for the newlyweds.

The Southam family had been owners of one of the oldest and largest cross-media group owners in Canada. In addition to the Hamilton Spectator, by 1932 the Southams also owned the Ottawa Citizen, the Calgary Herald, the Edmonton Journal, the Winnipeg Tribunal and the Vancouver Province.

St. Clair Balfour passed away in 1959 and his wife Ethel in 1976. The eldest Balfour daughter, Wilson Balfour Baxter, resided in Balfour House until her death in 2013. In 1979, the last generation of Southam descendants donated the site to what is now the Ontario Heritage Trust.

Laneway leading to Chedoke Estate (Ward 8 Office)

What did the City and Cardus agree to?

The Balfour Estate is currently sitting vacant and estimates range north of $1 million dollars in repairs that will be needed at the property. As the City of Hamilton manages the property, owned by OHT, investment was needed by an outside entity willing to invest capital into the estate, while also ensuring public access to its lands.

Currently, the city covers the annual operating cost of about $20,000. Over the years the city has received about $8,000 in revenue from film companies.

At the February 19 General Issues Committee meeting, council approved to support in principal the use of the Balfour House/Chedoke Estate for office, meeting and retreat use, subject to meeting all necessary planning and building approvals.

This will also be conditional upon Cardus satisfying the Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT) in regards to the intensity of the use planned by Cardus and potential impacts on the heritage attributes of the building and site.

Locked gate, Chedoke Estate (Ward 8 Office)

Next Steps

If Cardus is successful in obtaining, in writing, the support of the OHT for their proposed adaptive reuse of the estate, City staff will then be directed to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cardus for a sub-leasing agreement to achieve at minimum the following:

(i)                  The City will not be responsible for any capital costs;
(ii)                The sub-lease would generate net positive revenues to the City,                           inclusive of any City costs associated with administering the sub-                       lease;
(iii)              Any uses would not require any amendments to the City’s                                       applicable zoning by-law or Official Plan;
(iv)               All applicable planning and building approvals are met, including                       a review and approval of any traffic and parking impacts;
(v)                Frequent opportunities for free public access to Balfour House                             itself, and ongoing free public access to the grounds.

With guaranteed public access to the grounds, a complete renovation planned for a priceless heritage asset and if the proposed use is low impact, suitable to the property/neighbourhood and that the property is maintained everyday, with no taxpayer contribution, then we see this as a win-win for the Hamilton community and the heritage we value so deeply.

Questions or concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact our office here.