Members of St. Thomas city council got their first look Tuesday at a proposed development on the Alma College property.
Michael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities outlined his plan for three, seven-storey residential towers on the site of the former private school for girls. One of the structures would replicate the front facade of the main Alma college building.
The development would entail 400 units of various configurations geared to young families and empty-nesters alike. Much of the land on the 11-acre Moore Street site would be devoted to green space and pathways.
The college – built in 1878 – was heavily damaged by in 2008, after a fire was started by two Arthur Voaden Secondary Students. One of the students, Ivan Zinn, last year formally apologized to members of the Alma College International Alumnae Association during a reunion luncheon in London. Read related post here.
The Ontario Fire Marshal ordered the main college building demolished after the blaze due to safety concerns. Loewith, who has undertaken similar residential projects in Woodstock and Waterloo, said the ambitious project is about “building something that is beautiful.”
Loewith told council he visited the property last summer “and fell in love with it.” It is currently managed by London developer Gino Reale, who has endorsed Loewith’s vision.
His concept for the 11-acre property is “to create something interesting and unique . . . something to last for a long time.”
He pointed to his 106-unit Woodstock development – what he calls a “high-end” building – as a model for the Alma project.
The suites are large and luxurious with large living rooms and bedrooms and bright, airy kitchens. The attractive building itself simply serves “as an envelope,” explained Loewith.
“We invest in a community and stay,” he stressed. “It’s about building something that is beautiful.”
As for the Alma undertaking, Loewith noted each of the three structures would have its own separate roadway accessing Ross Street, Moore Street or Wellington Street.
Fifty per cent of the parking spots would be underground and the property would be laced with a system of pathways.
The goal is to revitalize the amphitheatre at the east end of the property for use by all city residents.
“I think it should be used by everybody in the community. That’s part of the history of the community and that should be for everybody.”
That could also include working with the alumnae association to possibly incorporate artifacts into the design.
“I’ve thought about that a lot,” agreed Loewith. “I’m really excited about that. One story I read was about the original college where students would sign their names in the stairwell.
“Wouldn’t that be incredible if we got a list of students who attended the school over the years and pen their names on a wall in memory of Alma.”
Loewith added, “We want to celebrate the history of Alma again.”
Council members were enthusiastic in their response.
“We’ve waited years for the right development,” said Mayor Heather Jackson.
“This is exactly what the community is looking for. Having the amphitheatre will make the community feel good.”
“I like your whole mindset,” added Councillor Joan Rymal.
If council gives approval to the final design, Loewith advised construction could begin as early as August of this year.
“We’ll do whatever we can so you can hit that deadline,” stressed Jackson. “This is good news all around.”
City manager Wendell Graves explained once council agrees to the final concept, the city would approach the Ontario Municipal Board to have the historical designation lifted from the property.
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Good story. Mark Tinlin told me tonight at Business After Five that they have to widen the gates (new fire regulations). He also said the developer wanted to start in August. They first have to get the heritage designation lifted by the Province as, apparently, the building is no longer there!! D’oh.
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