North Bay's oldest building, best known as the old Belmont Hotel, has been sold. The sale was finalized Wednesday.
The husband and wife team of Mélanie and Dave Dupuis of Dupuis Properties are the new owners, and say it's their way of supporting the downtown.
With the Canadian Pacific Railway log train station across the street, it was the only hotel in town. Built in 1886, it's now 134 years old and was first called the Winnipeg Hotel, then King George, then Belmont. then Cornerstone. It was the first hotel with hot running water, Dupuis says there is documentation and pictures to prove the oldest building claim.
North Bay was founded in 1882 by John Ferguson, a Scotsman who delivered mail for the CPR. The hotel was built by Ferguson four years later on the street that bears his name. There is some dispute to that, however, as other sources claim it was built in 1886 by Alex Doyle for proprietor David Kidd.
Dupuis Properties won the "Small Business of the Year (1-5 employees) at last year's Bell Evening of Excellence Awards and Dupuis says after trying to buy the property for two years, he's "obviously very excited."
The building now contains 31 bachelor rental units ---the old hotel rooms,---seven commercial stores, plus lots of storage in the basement.
He's looking at reconfiguring to add more commercial space.
"We're going to build two or three more commercial spaces," Dave Dupuis told BayToday. "They'll be very reasonably priced for start-ups. So if you're a start-up and just need a commercial space we're looking at doing that at a very affordable rate. It's downtown and has parking. We want to help small businesses."
So why invest in downtown when others are turning their back?
"Our mission statement is 'We want to beautify North Bay,' and we're doing it one unit, one building at a time. We want to put our touch on the Belmont. I'm tired of people knocking downtown but not providing a solution or taking steps to do something about it. We know downtown is taking a hit right now, but what are people doing about it?
"We want to keep buying buildings in North Bay and making buildings better one at a time. We just want to do our part."
One of the other changes Dave wants to make is updating the artwork on the building.
"The David Bowie mural is starting to kind of wash away and fade. I'd almost like them to redo it because it was pretty cool, so I'll have to see if the original artist wants to touch it up or do something different but I love the idea of having a mural up there and I'd love for it to be up there intact, as good or better."
Dupuis says this one of five buildings his company is looking to buy downtown in the next while.
"This is number one that we are looking to purchase in the downtown and one building at a time, one unit at a time, beautify North Bay. Instead of complaining about downtown, we trying to make a difference, and be the difference."