That summer, after the city began to dismantle the structure that dates back to 1913, all work came to a halt in late July after Justice Peter Hockin ruled in favour of Toronto owner David McGee’s request for leave of appeal, disputing a previous decision made by Justice David Little on July 14 that gave the City of St. Thomas a green light to commence demolition.
Following the successful appeal, McGee’s lawyer, Valerie M’Garry observed, “It gives him (McGee) an opportunity to demonstrate that he always intended to restore and maintain and refurbish that building.”
Eight years later, is McGee convinced he can bring the four-storey building back to life through a conversion to luxury condos?
You bet, based on a phone call Tuesday (March 22) with McGee.
“Unfortunately my timetable doesn’t jive with what the city is looking for and so we have a problem right now. I’m frustrated by this whole situation and I’m sure other people are too, but I don’t think the solution is to demolish buildings. It doesn’t make sense for anybody.”
McGee insists the edifice is still structurally sound.
“The challenge is a financing challenge at this point. It is still feasible. I went through the property this morning (Tuesday) and I can tell you I’ve seen no deterioration in the building whatsoever since October when I did a bunch of remedial work.
“We did a whole bunch of shoring and I put another $50,000 into the building to make it stable and secure and, as a result, the city removed its emergency order and replaced it with a property standards order. There is not an imminent danger at this point. There is not any case to be made that it is about to collapse.”
McGee is of the opinion the city is being “unreasonable” in its actions this week.
“To send a letter to me at three in the afternoon on Monday saying the following Monday they’re going to demolish it is unreasonable.”
So then you have to ask what is behind the city’s second attempt at demolition?
“It’s politically motivated. There is no other reason for it. I haven’t had any correspondence from anybody at the city, the lawyer’s office . . . anything since the end of November.
“My property manager has been going by every week checking on things. Nobody has emailed about any issues that need to be addressed.”
McGee adds he doesn’t know where this is coming from.
“I guess some people want to see a vacant lot there. Again, I don’t understand the reasoning or the logic behind it.”
Of course there is the small matter of back taxes owing and possible liens against McGee. We know of at least two liens totalling many thousands of dollars.
Both sides return to court in St. Thomas on April 8 as the Sutherland saga drags on.
OUR READERS WRITE
By way of correction, Dave Mathers sent us an email to note the Zubick family of London purchased Alma College in 1998 and not 1988 as we had previously stated.
Have to share a further couple of his recollections too delightful to ignore.
“I’m a 1958 graduate of Alma, Grade 8 piano and Grade 2 theory (T-J headline – 28 girls and 1 boy graduate. I got teased big time about that one),” Dave fondly recalls.
“My mother was a graduate as well as a teacher there. My sister is also a graduate of the music school and she was married in the chapel in 1978. Our family donated our family home at 138 Wellington St. during the Second World War as a residence for girls from a private school in England in 1944 and 1945. Some of the windows in the garage still have the stained glass decals from when it was used as a chapel for the girls.”
STILL WITH ALMA
In a recent letter to the editor from George and Jill Zubick, they write “We had great plans. We wanted to restore the building, and bring it back to its former glory. The situation came down to the fact that we could not do it. And for that, we are sorry for our part.”
That admission prompted this response from Donna Robertson, a member of the Alma College alumnae.
“After the initial plans for a long-term care facility fell though, the writing seemed to be on the wall. Why would demolition of all the classrooms, gym, pool, out buildings, new residence, many beautiful old trees, be allowed before any plans were finalized? All plans after that seemed desperate and fiscally made no sense, in my opinion.”
But the city must share responsibility, Donna reminds.
“The city did not enforce property standard bylaws before or after the fire. Apparently they did not insist the owner pay taxes either.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The deficit, at the end of the day, is debt — money that we have to pay back for borrowing money and overspending. It’s our debt to pay off in future years. It’s going to be our children and our grandchildren who have to pay for that.”
MP Karen Vecchio commenting on the 2016 federal budget presented Tuesday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow @ianscityscope