Partners on Donald building restoration go separate ways
By Jenn Watt
Published June 18, 2019
The partnership between local charity The Land Between and property owner Jim O’Connor to restore the old Donald Chemical building seems to have ended.
The two parties have come to an impasse on how to work together to restore what was once part of an industrial iron coke producing plant and later a wood acetate production facility, built in the early 1900s in the village of Donald.
Money from various sources including the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Haliburton County Development Corporation and RBC Securities have gone into some of the restoration work done so far. Aside from financial investments, there has been in-kind assistance. The Trillium grant was the largest infusion, with $47,700 granted to repair the roof, which was completed by 2012.
Since that time, Leora Berman, chief operating officer of The Land Between, said she’s continued to work toward restoring the building, but has come up against challenges. She sought out original blueprints, but said they were likely destroyed long ago in fires at archive buildings. She said she had plans to connect with the University of Toronto engineering program to see if students there would make the Donald building one of their projects. The intention was to eventually make the building into a marketing space for Haliburton builders and landscapers.
The original memorandum of understanding created between O’Connor and Donald Innovation Project Collaborative (since taken over by The Land Between) expired in 2015. Since that time there hasn’t been another signed agreement.
O’Connor said as the owner of the building, he wanted to move forward with restoration and was working on it himself now, with the assistance of a friend.