Will council give green light to Sutherland Press building demolition?

Entitled ‘Demolition of an Unsafe Building,’ a report to mayor and council Tuesday from Chris Peck, chief building official, would appear to clearly indicate the city has had enough dealings with the owner of the Sutherland Press building.
Peck is asking council to approve a tender submitted by Schouten Excavating of Watford, Ont., in the amount of $101,135 for demolition of what remains of the four-storey structure owned by David McGee of Toronto.
To recap recent history, on Sept, 16 of last year the city posted an emergency order on the building following a partial roof collapse at the southwest corner of the structure at Moore Street.

    That order was removed early in November after some temporary shoring of the building and was replaced with a property standards order when the shoring work ceased.

    23jt01sutherlandjpgIn December, an order to remedy an unsafe building was issued against McGee, but as of this week, the work has not been completed.
In fact Peck indicates in his report the city has not heard from McGee and no work has been undertaken at the site since October.
So the city can let the building sit as is and succumb to the elements or it can initiate legal proceedings against McGee for non-compliance.
Neither of which addresses the safety concerns.
Hiring a contractor to undertake repairs would run in the neighbourhood of $450,000, Peck estimates.
That is the rationale behind his recommendation to tear down the building — constructed for the Noble Manufacturing Co., — that dates back to 1913.
As city manager Wendell Graves has pointed out to the Times-Journal on a couple of occasions, they are “following a process.”
Will council give the green light Tuesday to calling in the wrecking ball?
Or will this venerable structure — an unwitting participant in two municipal elections — continue to cast a shadow over the downtown during the 2018 election campaign?

A key plank in the mayor’s re-election platform was — and remains — revitalization of the west end of Talbot Street. It’s a sorry stretch of road that serves as the not necessarily inviting western gateway to St. Thomas.

Full page photo

Mickleborough Building on Talbot St. in St. Thomas.

Vacant storefronts, burned-out lots and a crumbling roadway do little to advertise the city is open for business.
Adding planter boxes, banners and fancy new lighting will be nothing more than cosmetics.
What is needed is a west-end neighbourhood, branded distinctive from the stretch of Talbot Street to the east.
And a focal point is needed from which to anchor this west-end community.
What better launching pad than the current base of Ontario Works — housed in what is known as the Mickleborough Building, arguably one of the most attractive downtown edifices aside from city hall itself.
Located at the corner of Mary and Talbot streets, the building dating back to the early 1900s was designed by St. Thomas architect Neil Darrach.
For a couple of years in the 1970s the structure was home to British mainstay, Marks and Spencer.
Huston’s Fine Furniture held fort into the early 1990s.
This attractive example of St. Thomas commercial life must be incorporated into any streetscape plan for the west end, in much the same fashion as the CASO station is the showcase for the centre strip of Talbot Street.
If mayor and council are truly dedicated to preserving the heritage of St. Thomas, can there be any more significant foundation than the Mickleborough Building?

The death of Sharon Crosby a week ago is the loss of another important figure in the political history of St. Thomas.

sharon crosby

Sharon Crosby

An alderman on council from 1994 to 2003, she was front and centre during the passionate and bitter debate over location of what would become the Timken Centre.
Crosby was embroiled in two incidents that illustrate the dark side of how some members of council conducted business early in the new millennium.
Back in November of 2014, Gord Campbell was particularly impassioned during his farewell address to council and city voters, having made the decision not to seek re-election.
If you had followed along in astute fashion, you would have picked up his subtle reference to a sordid bit of muzzling that transpired almost 13 years ago.
Campbell, you see, was denied the opportunity to wish his peers and supporters a formal adieu when he failed to gain re-election in the 2003 municipal vote.
However he was not alone.
Ald. Crosby — also defeated at the polls — was likewise silenced when the final meetings of the term were cancelled, ostensibly due to a lack of city business.
Well, the mayor at the time was Jeff Kohler, appointed to head of council in September of 2003 when Peter Ostojic chose to vacate the mayor’s office to pursue a full-time position elsewhere at city hall.
Was the cupboard truly empty of items that needed to be addressed or was it payback time for the pair who were vehemently opposed to a downtown location for the city’s proposed twin-pad arena?
Giving them an open microphone — as was past tradition upon defeat or retirement — might have proven embarrassing, especially in the case of Crosby, who perhaps could have used the opportunity to shed light on the strategy employed by some of her peers to deny her a voice during the definitive vote on the location of the Timken Centre.
To her credit, Crosby never revealed to the public at large either of these unsavory chapters in the history of a council that had been characterized at the time as ‘dysfunctional.’

Related post:

Filling vacant seat will be a true test of this council


Karen Laine

Karen Laine

“We’re interested in building a culture of conversation with the community foundation and we see this as a great step. We’re fans of the big, bold idea.”
Karen Laine, executive director of the Elgin St. Thomas Community Foundation which will host its second Ignite Elgin event next Wednesday (Feb. 17, 2016) at the St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre.

 City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to imccallum@postmedia.com.

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