The city’s built heritage received a welcome ally this week with the establishment of an Elgin-St. Thomas chapter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, with the aim of preserving buildings and structures of architectural merit and places of natural beauty and interest.
With the notable exception of Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman, our elected representatives at all levels of government have done little more than talk the talk when confronted with heritage preservation.
Witness Alma College. Better yet, the two remaining orphaned structures on the Moore Street property.
ACO past president Catherine Nasmith and in-coming president Lloyd Alter were guest speakers Tuesday at the CASO station for the founding meeting of the 23rd local chapter of the organization conceived in 1933 to help preserve Ontario’s architecturally-significant landscapes and structures – not just of the 18th and 19th centuries – but also more modern examples as well.
The ACO attempts this through increasing public awareness, providing advice, supporting community involvement and seeking improved legislation.
Don Menard, heritage planner for the City of London, noted local chapters are often formed as the result of crisis situations.
“Some times you have to get political,” he stressed. “I see this as a major role for the ACO.”
Local branches are ultimately seen as a positive force, added Nasmith, who admitted efforts to preserve the Moore house near Sparta resulted in “the compromise from hell.”
With an eye to rehabilitation rather than demolition, Alter reminded the close to 50 in attendance that “the greenest brick is the one that’s already in the wall.”
My, how that applies to the Sutherland Press building.
At the founding meeting, Suzanne van Bommel was elected local president, with Dawn Doty serving as vice-president.
Former mayor Jeff Kohler has climbed back on to the political stage with the confirmation he will work for his uncle Frank Klees’ campaign to become the next leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.
So, is this a warmup for another shot at the mayor’s seat in the 2010 municipal election?
If such is the case, would Mayor Cliff Barwick entertain a re-match 18 months from now?
If the wind and the water were to come together in such a fashion, who would you vote for next November?
Of course, with MPP Steve Peters’ long-term future at Queen’s Park a question mark, a step up to provincial politics under the Tory banner might be a more tantalizing trail for Kohler.
WE WANT TO BE WINNERS, JOE
No doubt stung by Mayor Barwick’s harsh words earlier this month about being misled regarding application qualifications, MP Joe Preston has submitted a personal letter and details for Intake 2 of the Communities Components of the Building Canada funding program for consideration at Monday’s council meeting.
St. Thomas missed out on the first round with its application for a new police station and Barwick made it abundantly clear Preston and Peters had nurtured the impression it would be a walk down the garden path toward upper tier infrastructure dollars.
With a second chance to grasp the golden ring, St. Thomas can submit up to three applications for economic stimulus projects “which would not have been built over the next two construction seasons without the federal and provincial funding” according to the guidelines.
An additional $500 million is being made available to communities across Canada with a population of less than 100,000.
There are 18 project categories, with an apparent emphasis on undertakings related to safe drinking water, disaster mitigation, brownfield redevelopment and local roads and bridges.
So, once again, where would a new police headquarters fit into the picture? Perhaps under the vague category of “collaborative projects.”
It would appear this garden path could again lead directly toward disappointment.
If that is the case, the city should submit two additional projects: the rehabilitation of Wellington Street, which neatly fits into the roads category and reapply for funding to build a 929-square-metre (10,000-square-foot) hangar and ramp area to accommodate corporate jet traffic at St. Thomas Municipal Airport, under the local and regional airports banner of the Building Canada program.
Exactly one year ago the city missed out on funding through the province’s Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative for the $1.2 million airport terminal building upgrade.
In 2007, two studies of the airport were completed, including an economic report which noted the airport could generate $22 million a year and employ 110 people if additions, such as food services, charter services and cargo services were added.
Later that year, a second study – a corporate air terminal feasibility study – recommended a hangar facility for corporate jets and a conceptual site plan.
Barwick was equally miffed when the provincial funding parade bypassed St. Thomas on its 2008 tour.
“We are very perturbed that 250 cities get funding for everything from bridges to restoration of historic buildings and we apply for money to improve our airport, to help bring in industry to increase the tax base, and we get nothing,” harrumphed Barwick at the time.
Do you see a pattern here?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The worst thing a community can do is erase itself.”
Catherine Nasmith, president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, comments on efforts by Mayor Cliff Barwick, city council and staff to tear down the Sutherland Press building. Her observation was made Tuesday during a visit to the CASO station for the founding meeting of the Elgin-St. Thomas branch of the ACO.
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