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Rental? Sale? Demolition? Historic hotel's owner questions future

Proposals for the Queen's Hotel sparked heated conversation at this week's Battleford city council meeting
An increasingly dilapidated Queen's Hotel in Battleford, one of the oldest in Sask., pictured here on a rainy Aug. 22nd, the day after Battleford Town Council moved forward with a notice of demolition for the owners

Nearly a month after the town approved an order to demolish the Queen's Hotel in Battleford, Saskatchewan, the president of the company that owns the hotel has proposed three alternatives in a bid to delay the demolition order.

A letter from Myungok Kim that town council received at its Sept. 18 meeting laid out three plans for the future of the hotel — each with an extension of the deadline to demolish, currently slated for Nov. 1, 2023.

  • Plan 1: Myungok Kim noted in his letter that the company is currently working with multiple investors to build a four-story building to accommodate three commercial retail units on the first floor, and 18 rental houses through the second to fourth floor. Due to the recession, Myungok Kim wrote, investors are hesitating to invest but asked for an extension until Feb. 1, 2024.

  • Plan 2: If the first plan were to fail, they would list the property for sale as they believe there is interest. This plan would require until Sept. 7, 2024, to complete.

  • Plan 3: If all else fails, Myungok Kim requested a two-year extension until Sept. 7, 2025, to demolish the property.

Jason Kim, speaking for his father at the town's council meeting, expressed his concern that they didn't receive enough notice from the town on the demolition, only hearing about the demolition from a story published on the front page of the Battleford News-Optimist's Aug. 24 edition.

The News-Optimist noted in a previous article, following standard coverage of Battleford council's public meeting, that the building faced demolition as the order to demolish passed council and the process was started.

"First of all, we were quite disappointed about the fact that we received such news [of the demolition] from the newspaper. According to the article, the township has notified us numerous times about the Queen's," Kim began, alleging that this wasn't the case. 

Kim told the council they only received two letters in the last year regarding landscaping and other matters, not demolition.

"All of a sudden, one of our regular customers sent me a text message taking a photo of the News-Optimist article," Kim said, adding that a day later, they received a letter from the CAO. 

"I don't know how this happened. How do the council members conduct such meetings without the actual owners of the property? We were very disappointed." 

Kim said that when looking at the statistics, the complaints about the building are less frequent than when the building was operated.

"There's no criminal activities going on whatsoever, no noise complaints ... we do our very best to keep it safe, and of course, that's our assets, that's our property, we're not going to leave our property just like that." 

He went on to explain his family currently owns the Hanabi Sushi Restaurant and the Windsor Hotel and that there weren't enough rental properties in Battleford for their staff. Kim feels this is proof of the high demand for rental properties in Battleford as they seek investors for the first plan. 

"Our projected budget is $2.5 million dollars in order to build the four-storey building," Kim said. 

"In order to tackle that problem, my parents personally listed their town property for sale in order to make this project happen because we really don't want to leave [the] Queen's like that. We invested too much money there," Kim added.

"We have run our business for 15 years. Our family became Canadian citizens 15 years ago, and this is the first town we settled [in], and it means a lot to us."

Kim noted lastly that he hoped council would allow them to demolish the property themselves, without having to charge taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it would require more time.

"Maybe we could build, like government-funded rental housing here, by spending that hundred of thousands of dollars. It's good for the PR, and it's good for the township, it's good for the public isn't it?"

After a few questions to clarify if the building would be demolished, with Kim saying it would be, and expressing concerns about people being in the property, with Kim questioning the factual nature of those claims, the mayor continued with a few questions.

"I appreciate the presentation today. I'm not as nice as these guys are," Mayor Ames Leslie said, as he began to ask several pointed questions of Kim.

"Why did it take this council to order a demolition before you started taking care of the property?" Mayor Leslie asked, noting that the RCMP, fire department, and Public Safety Officer (PSO), had gotten many complaints. 

"There's glass on the sidewalk on almost a daily basis ... there are people coming and going from this building at all times of night that our PSOs as well as the RCMP are chasing out."

"Okay, the statistics," Kim began. 

"And we had to send our cleanup crew even though we've asked you guys to clean it up ... why did it take it going into the newspaper that we're going to knock it down to all of a sudden want to pay attention?"

Kim again expressed concerns as to why it was covered in the paper. 

Mayor Leslie told Kim that multiple red and yellow notices had been placed on the building and that, regardless, the property was still derelict with an abundance of weeds and glass falling out of windows. 

"The expectation of every property owner in this community, whether it's commercial, industrial, or residential, is to keep their property in a state that isn't a nuisance."

When Kim expressed frustration that they weren't told via a letter mailed to them, or sent to their post office box, Mayor Leslie said, "That's beside the point, we're not talking about the paperwork. We're talking about the visual state of that building."

Mayor Leslie noted again multiple complaints from residents and that the fire department has identified the building as a fire risk.

"If this council were to give you an extension, what steps are you guys going to take to make sure that you're being compliant with keeping that building as safe as possible?" 

"I'm going to give you the resolution from our hand on that matter," Kim began, before saying one staff member would be dedicated to dealing with it every day.

"Frankly speaking, we did not pay, probably, enough attention that you must have respect. Well, you know that building is a 150-year building. Do we have to go to that building and check all the surroundings every day, is that what we have to do?"

"Well, would you do that with your house?" 

"Our house? Well, frankly speaking, I wouldn't with my house." 

The mayor noted that council would discuss the issue, but would need to see true honest efforts made to ensure the property is kept up. Mayor Leslie noted that keeping the building highly presentable until 2025 would be a long time.

"This building needs to come down."

Kim noted administrative work would need to be done, work that would take beyond the Nov. 1 deadline.

"This council fully knows you can't have it knocked over by Nov. 1, but this is definitely the first step, having this conversation."

"I don't know, this was total surprise news. Because I thought nothing was happening. When we were open in business there, we received more complaints. That's a statistical fact." 

"Council never got complaints when you were open," said the mayor.