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Bonavista Creative and Townscape Foundation partner to restore Bridge House

The Bridge House in Bonavista.
The Bridge House in Bonavista.

BONAVISTA, N.L. — Bonavista Creative and the Bonavista Historic Townscape Foundation are partnering to fully restore the oldest standing merchant home in Newfoundland — the Alexander Bridge House.

And, according to the National Trust for Canada, the house is the oldest documented standing residential property in the province.
Bonavista Creative will contribute $250,000, or 10 per cent, of the estimated $2.5 million cost to restore the Bridge House and develop the surrounding area, similar to the rest of the harbour front. The Townscape Foundation will secure the remaining 90 per cent of the project costs through funding agencies.
At a public presentation by Bonavista Living and Bonavista Creative on Thursday, April 13, to reveal new businesses coming to Bonavista, the Bridge House partnership was announced.
The seeds for the partnership were planted last fall when John Norman, COO of Bonavista Living and Bonavista Creative, and David Bradley, chairman of the Townscape Foundation talked about the next steps after the harbour front development project. The harbour front development project saw the installation of sidewalks and beautification in the inner harbour area of Bonavista.
Bradley says Norman was interested in the project as it supports much of the work his companies has been doing in the town.
He called Bonavista Creative’s investment, “critically important” to ensure the building is restored.
“Obviously we have to find the other 90 per cent, but in recent years, public funding agencies have been supporting large community economic development projects of this type only if there is a minimum 10 per cent contribution from 'non-governmental' sources,” Bradley told The Packet. “Your own municipality can't even be listed as a contributor on that 10 per cent — you need private sector dollars.”
Bradley says this contribution shores up that end of the funding need, an essential contribution sometimes hard to find.
Bradley says he thinks Townscape should be able to come up with the remaining 90 per cent to make the restoration a reality — because they’ve done it before.
In 2015, Ocean Choice International contributed $100,000 to the Campbell Street project, the Foundation raised another $150,000, completing the 10 per cent of that $2.5 million project, which is close to completion.
In 2007-08, Townscape raised $150,000 from smaller businesses and individual donations to finance the $1.5 million Garrick Theatre restoration.
As a result, Bradley seems confident when it comes to getting the additional funding.
"There's no question the province's fiscal situation is poor, but we will not be asking the province to create new funding for this project. We will be applying to existing programs with both levels of government. In last year's provincial budget, the relevant regional economic development program was cut, but not this year. There's under $10 million in the program now. That's for the whole province but, if the project is deemed to have the merits we claim, there's no reason why a certain portion of that fund couldn't be allocated to this project.”
He says they’re also seeking economic development funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the maximum available grant from the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (HFNL). The Bridge House is on HFNL’s list of registered heritage structures.
Townscape has already been in contact with the agencies last fall, and he says while all were interested, there were no initial commitments.
They will begin the proposal writing and application process later this spring.
And, as far as a timeline for approval to begin work on the Bridge House, Bradley says they are somewhat worried about how long it may take.
"That's the question that most concerns us,” said Bradley. “It took two years to get Campbell Street approved, despite the fact that all agreed on the merits of the project, and we had our contribution in place. Those with good memories will also recall that finding approval for the Garrick was a three-year struggle that ended only after 1,500 supporters got behind the initiative with a spirited email-letter campaign."
However, he says they don’t expect as much of a delay this time.
“Everyone recognizes the significance and value of Bridge House, and it makes sense to finish the last phase of harbour front development.”
But if there is a long delay, he adds, the private investment may no longer be secured.
“We couldn't expect a small private company to tie up that much capital indefinitely to support a community project that doesn't seem as though it will get off the ground."
Their target is to get approved for funding by fall or winter and for construction to begin in early spring 2018.
Twitter: @jejparsons

This article was changed to accurately describe the work being done with the $2.5 million project. Also, the funding donor is actually Bonavista Creative, not Bonavista Living, a separate company.

What is the ‘Alexander Bridge House’?

Located on Walkham’s Hill in Bonavista, right on the inner harbour, the Alexander Bridge House is the oldest standing merchant home in Newfoundland. It is an example of Georgian architecture.
The house was inhabited by Scottish merchant William Alexander.
The structure was built between 1811-1814 by architect and master builder, Alexander Strathie.
Strathie and his family are responsible for creating many of the different landmark buildings and homes in Bonavista.
The Bridge House has been unused since 1966.

Information courtesy of Bonavista Townscape Foundation

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