A piece of Esquimalt’s past came down in a cloud of dust on Saturday morning.
The township’s mould- and asbestos-riddled former municipal hall, which has mostly sat unused since a new hall opened in 2003, was reduced to rubble by 10 a.m. Saturday morning.
“Come Monday, a few people will be a little surprised driving down Esquimalt Road,” said Jeff Miller, Esquimalt’s director of engineering and public works.
Behind him two excavators from H.L. Demolition and Waste Management chewed their way through the hall, built in 1929.
A few early risers witnessed the building come down, scheduled by the demolition company to happen on a weekend, likely to minimize impacts to pedestrian and vehicle traffic since Park Place was partially closed, Miller said.
“It’s like watching a bit of history,” said Esquimalt resident Amber Hemminger, who watched with her boss, Ray Kennedy, owner of nearby Bring & Buy Books.
The demolition tugged at Kennedy’s heartstrings.
“I was in the navy for 30 years so I’ve seen the building for that length of time, (and) it’s kind of sad to see it go,” Kennedy said. “It’s progress anyway. There’ll be something nice and new in there. It’ll be good.”
“It was kind of an eyesore,” Hemminger added.
They said they have no objections to the idea of residential-commercial towers going up in the municipal square. Council’s controversial plans to rezone the property for that use will be posed as a referendum question in the Nov. 19 municipal election.
“There’s no other land here, so they have to (build) up basically,” said Kennedy. “You can’t spread out in Esquimalt.”
The newly vacant lots will be sodded, while the public works site will be paved, said Miller, who will be developing cost estimates for a study examining the public works site, which may be contaminated with spilt oil and other liquids.
Saturday’s event is part of a larger $347,000 deconstruction package, which included the tear-down of the former public works buildings and a vacant home on Fraser Street, which may become an active seniors’ park.
A Lampson Street home near the baseball diamonds will be torn down by the end of August, and ideas for the site’s redevelopment so far include tennis or basketball courts, a playground expansion and a new ball diamond.
Did you know?
• Construction of former township hall: 1929
• Construction costs: $12,600
• Also home to township’s police station: 1929-1979