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Third Sector Acquisition of Surplus Federal Heritage Buildings in Canada: Challenges and Opportunities

Corey, Alexander McKinlay

The continued ownership and operation of heritage buildings by the Federal Government of Canada is at risk. Economic and political changes have mandated accountability and a focus on generating revenue while reducing expenditures. Rationalization (reorganization to achieve efficiencies, often through reductions) is increasingly being pursued, and the disposal of surplus real estate is one area in which reductions can not only decrease costs, but also generate revenue. Within this climate, a lack of regulations and oversight that might afford protection to designated federal heritage buildings within the disposal process places them at risk of inappropriate management. While the disposal reporting data for federal heritage buildings is neither readily available nor retained by the federal government, an increased rate of disposal of federal heritage buildings has been noted in government directives and reports, as well as announcements concerning the large-scale disposal of use-specific heritage buildings. Concurrently, the third sector has been increasing its capacity, assuming responsibilities formerly held by the public sector and breaking into the private market through real estate acquisition, the pursuit of revenue generating activities, and increasing cooperation amongst organizations. Operating for the benefit of “civil society,” third sector organizations in Canada are viable community partners for both the public and private sector to engage. This thesis recognizes the third sector as having significant agency, understanding that it has the ability to be a proactive participant in heritage conservation processes. The third sector can play an important role in the adaptive reuse of surplus public heritage buildings. As the private sector assumes greater responsibility in the provision of public services, many of the buildings that facilitated public service delivery are becoming obsolete. As noted by Susan Macdonald and Caroline Cheong, public sector rationalization is a significant challenge for both publicly and privately owned heritage buildings. The third sector can play an important stewardship role in both the short- and long-term for surplus federal heritage buildings, and can provide a means of ensuring community management is a part of the future-use planning of community assets. This thesis seeks to position the third sector as a potential solution in the disposal of federal heritage buildings, proposing that the disposal process can be an opportunity to evidence how significant public benefit might be derived through third sector acquisition, should the right tools be made available. Federal heritage buildings are unique assets that have the potential to retain both financial and community value, and the third sector is singularly positioned to conserve these buildings as community landmarks that contribute to civil society while financially benefiting from their ownership and operation of the properties.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Avrami, Erica
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 20, 2015
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