With demolition of the Sutherland Press building slated to begin Oct. 30, according to city manager Wendell Graves, what happens once the structure is down and the site cleared?
The Sutherland Saga may yet have life to it.
Before looking at the possibilities, Graves ran through what is going on behind the scenes prior to levelling the four-storey building.
“They may start moving things in next week,” he explained. “Chris Peck, our chief building official is working with the contractor (Schouten Excavating of Watford).
“One of the things they are finalizing is the demolition contractor’s engineer is working with the chief building official just to finalize the methodology as to how it comes down.”
As noted previously, the aim is to keep Talbot Street open during demolition and re-open the transit centre once the building is reduced to a safe height.
Dismantling the building has a 30-day time limit, however Peck has advised clearing the footprint of all rubble and returning it to a clean site will likely take longer.
But then what?
Over the past ten years, owner David McGee did little to push ahead with restoration of the building dating back to 1913. So what is he going to do with an empty lot?
We questioned Graves as to whether the city would purchase the lot for use by the municipality or add it to its inventory of available properties through the Economic Development Corporation.
A third possibility: does the city assume ownership through non-payment of taxes and other expenses?
“The process there will not be unlike any other process in the city,” stressed Graves.
“If there is neglect on paying taxes or payments on the site and it goes into arrears, then that has time limits that we will manage as prescribed by the Ontario Municipal Act.”
So the vacant property located adjacent to Veterans Memorial Garden and the railway corridor could ultimately prove of some value to the city.
“When the tax arrears system has completed itself and the municipality has an opportunity to look at the property, we would do that to see if there is any merit in us stepping in and doing something.”
Perhaps a Sutherland parkette or expansion of the transit facilities. Any other suggestions?
LACK OF INTEREST
From the how-did-that-work-out-for-you-department, the city through its Economic Development Corp. has had the Colin McGregor Justice Building – the former home of the St. Thomas Police Service – on the real estate market over the summer and as of Sept. 1, there was not one single inquiry from an interested party.
Could that be the result of asbestos inside the building and the fact it was constructed on the site of a coal gasification plant and, as a result, there is coal tar contamination.
In fact, an environmental assessment, undertaken by Conestoga Rovers of Waterloo, indicated soil samples from the northern portion of the property exceed Ministry of the Environment standards for benzene, lead and petroleum hydrocarbon contamination.
City manager Wendell Graves is recommending utilities be minimized within the building until it can be demolished next year.
Estimated cost of demolition is $400,000. Compare that to the $197,000 tab to level the Sutherland Press building.
One thing is patently clear from the report Graves presented to council this past Monday: promoting renovations to the building so that it would continue to serve as police HQ should have been discounted years ago due to the contamination referenced above.
And that explains the high cost of demolition and clearing the city-owned property.
Once the site is clean, one proposal would see it become a civic square and Graves told City Scope he will present conceptual drawings to council early in November.
In 2016, city staff drafted a conceptual plan for such a development that would link city hall, the public library and the London & Port Stanley Railway corridor.
And a 2015 retail market study undertaken by Dillon Consulting and W. Scott Morgan & Associates presented to council in April of this year urged the city to develop the former police headquarters property for “community use including active and passive recreational uses.”
THE MEMORY OF THOSE WHO SERVED IS NOT FORGOTTEN
The War Memorial Site Committee has put together an attractive souvenir program for the official dedication of Veterans Memorial Garden next Saturday (Oct. 28). Start time for the ceremony is 11:30 a.m.
Located on Moore Street across from the BX Tower, the garden will include an Afghanistan War Memorial, the Great War Memorial to be moved from St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, the Cenotaph on Princess Avenue and a Vimy oak tree planted to honour the Canadians who fought and died at Vimy Ridge in April of 1917.
The dedication ceremony will feature the Salvation Army Jubilee Brass; MC Shelly Haycock, president of Lord Elgin Branch 41 Royal Canadian Legion; Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Dowdeswell; a dedication prayer led by Rev. Nick Wells; and a blessing of the Afghanistan Memorial by Capt. Andrew Thomson, padre 31 CER (The Elgins).
In an interview this summer, Tony Bendel from Lord Elgin Branch 41 observed, “For me this is especially important because of this year being Canada’s 150th birthday and the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge. And now we’re going to have a permanent memorial to honour these people.”
FOR THE CALENDAR
A second public meeting is scheduled for Wed. Oct. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Dutton/Dunwich Community Centre, 1 Scotland St., in Dutton to deal with the Strong Breeze wind turbine project, to be developed by Chicago-based Invenergy.
The renewable energy project – strongly opposed by 84 per cent of residents and municipal council – will consist of 16 to 20 wind turbines capable of generating over 57 megawatts of green energy.
They would be concentrated in the Wallacetown and Dutton areas as well as along the Talbot Line corridor through the municipality.
Princess Avenue will be closed from Talbot Street south to Centre Street on Monday (Oct. 23) to allow for moving the Cenotaph to its new location at Veterans Memorial Garden.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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