Michael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities made an impressive presentation to city council Tuesday, outlining his proposal for developing the Alma College property.
There have been proposals in the past for the site of the former school for girls, so is this latest presentation the real deal?
“He (Loewith) is the right guy,” insisted London Developer Gino Reale, current manager of the Moore Street property.
“It took a little while to find him. But, I think we found the right guy . . . I’m not a builder, but if I find the right guy then that’s who is going to buy it. And this guy, in my books, is the right guy.”
Loewith has a conditional offer to purchase the property, as Reale explained earlier this week.
“There are conditions on the offer until April. As far as he (Loewith) is concerned, it’s a done deal. Until he sends me the paperwork and says he waives the conditions – which was primarily this meeting with council and a couple of other minor things – it will solidify or fall apart by April.”
Reale indicated there has been interest in the property on several fronts, not all of it to his liking.
“One guy wanted to put in an application for 600 townhouses. It was all about the money.”
Reale is impressed with Loewith’s committment to acknowledge Alma’s presence in the city for well over a century.
“He’s going to try to maintain as much of the integrity of the property as he can.”
That includes the amphitheatre at the east edge of the property, off Ross Street.
The developer, originally from Tavistock, would like to have a shovel in the ground by August of this year. Is that a feasible timeline.
“The planning department has had follow-up with his group already this week,” advised city manager Wendell Graves.
“They are getting their planning applications in order and getting them submitted so things can proceed. I think from a logistics standpoint, it they get all their ducks in a row and everything submitted, technically it’s possible.”
Graves anticipates a report from the planning department to come to council some time in June.
He outlined what will be required with regard to the Alma facade proposed by Loewith.
“We have to work toward getting the facade replication fully vetted so we can get that (historical) registration that’s sitting on the title to the property lifted. That will be vetted with the Ontario Municipal Board.”
That facade will actually be part of one of the three apartment buildings, explained Graves.
“There will be functioning windows. There is a stepped relief from the plane of the building. It’s not just going to be flat bricks. It will be functional inside.”
As for the amphitheatre, the last remaining vestige of the property in addition to the front gate and fence, Graves indicated Loewith’s group would retain ownership.
“What I’ve been hearing is there will be access to the amphitheatre through trails and that will be an asset on the property.”
So, is Michael Loewith the go-to guy capable of breathing life back into the Moore Street property?
“That’s what the site needed,” stressed Reale, “it needed someone like Michael Loewith.
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
Caroline Mulroney, one of the candidates vying for the leadership of the Ontario PC party, this past week called on former leader Patrick Brown to remove himself from the race.
She is urging the other leadership hopefuls – Christine Elliott, Doug Ford and Tanya Granic Allen – to join her in convincing Brown what is needed is a leader who will put the party ahead of personal needs.
Earlier this week Brown, and all of the leadership candidates, cleared the party’s vetting process.
So, is all of this media attention on Brown shifting the focus away from the task at hand: unseating the Kathleen Wynne Liberals in the fast-approaching spring provincial vote?
“I think as a party, the membership, when it comes time to vote, needs to focus on which candidate is going to deliver us a victory come June 7 and replace the Liberal government,” stressed Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek in a conversation yesterday (Feb. 23).
And what did the candidate vetting process involve?
“It was a mix of MPPs and the party executive. It’s a standard process of the party developed through the years. It’s usually not as public. But this year, with what’s in the media, it’s highly charged.”
With Brown and Ford, you can’t describe the leadership race as lacking in drama.
“You also can’t say at the end of the race that Ontarians aren’t going to know who our leader is,” Yurek pointed out. “Everyone will know their name.”
Yurek finds himself in an interesting position in that he originally was an active proponent of Brown before he stepped down after sexual misconduct allegations which he vehemently denies.
Yurek now is in the Mulroney camp, but asserts that has not put him in a tough position.
“No, I was part of the team in caucus and when Patrick resigned as leader, I had to choose another potential leader to support and I agree with having a generational change in our party and someone to bring forth new ideas. And that’s why I jumped on Caroline’s team.
“She has a great education. She has a mix of experience, not only in the private sector, but also through the charity she created. And I really like that she talks about making decisions that affect Ontario in the long term, as opposed to short-term policies which tend to get us into trouble.”
Yurek says there has been no pressure to again throw his support behind Brown.
“No, I haven’t heard a thing from Patrick. We just have an extra name on the ticket.”
With the process to select a leader culminating in early March, can the candidates project their message in that limited timeframe?
“Time is going to be short,” conceded Yurek. “I know they will be using phone calls, rallies and social media to get their message out. But really they have a week left before the voting starts to get everything in place.”
The candidates will be in Ottawa and London this coming week.
If nothing else, the leadership controversy has given the party plenty of profile – good or bad – in the media.
“It’s advertising you couldn’t pay for,” admitted Yurek. “But people are going to know who our leader is.”
Will that leader’s first task be to ensure party unity after a tumultuous detour in the past month?
“Unfortunately it’s going to be a short timeframe to put the party back together,” advised Yurek. “We have to make sure whoever is leader is given ample opportunity to do so.
“I think it starts with ensuring that caucus is together and piecing together all the other leadership supporters.”
And does the party build on Brown’s platform, assuming he is not returned as leader?
“I would hope we can build off the current platform. We spent almost two years building it with membership. I think it’s an excellent platform that definitely speaks to all Ontarians.
“I don’t see why any other leadership contender wouldn’t work with that as a starting point.
“After 15 years of any government people get tired. And when you compound it with the mismanagement and the state of our healthcare system and the economy, it’s right for ensuring whoever our leader is they take us to victory.
“The key is to make Ontario competitive and affordable. And ensuring healthcare is reliable. That’s what we need to focus on.”
Yurek indicated Mulroney will be in London on Tuesday (Feb. 27) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lamplighter Inn.
NO DOG TAG, NO WORRIES
Last August, Lois Jackson bemoaned the fact city council put long-overdue renovations at the animal shelter on hold because the lowest tender bid came in $38,000 over the $260,000 budget.
That, compounded with the fact certain individuals at city hall don’t comprehend – or just don’t give a damn – that their best resource person is the chair of the animal welfare committee, has Jackson at the end of her tether.
“This is what I’ve done every single day for 18 years,” Jackson told City Scope at the time. “Every time they turn around they are opening another Pandora’s Box. They try to fix one problem and create 10 more. Listen to someone who is actually trying to help you.”
You only had to be in attendance at the Feb. 22 committee meeting to get a sense of the source of Jackson’s frustration.
When asked the last time a ticket was issued to an owner whose dog was off leash, city bylaw enforcement officer Rob McDonald indicated that would be four years ago.
It was noted 1,264 dog tags were sold last year with a rough estimate of anywhere up to a population of 6,000 canines in the city.
Were any tickets issued to the owners of the approximately 4,800 tagless dogs last year?
“None,” was the response from McDonald. Seems the department is short staffed.
McDonald went on to postulate owners who don’t currently have a licence and adamantly refuse to purchase a tag in the future “generally are in trouble with the law and don’t care.”
Asked if he had any statistical evidence to back up that rather grandiose claim, McDonald admitted he did not.
There are benefits that come with the $30 or so paid annually for a tag, especially if your dog wanders off.
But if the city is not willing to enforce the tag bylaw, you can see why the vast majority of dog owners thumb their nose at forking over cash to purchase a licence for Fido.
Resulting in a considerable loss of revenue for the city.
Is it really due to a staff shortage? Or is it far less hassle to ticket an illegally parked car with no driver in sight?
If the latter is the case, then the real culprit is apathy, in various quarters.
HAVE YOUR SAY
The London branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario checked in with comments on the Alma College property proposal. Plus an advisory on heritage designation.
In a post on the City Scope Facebook page, the group writes, “It’s exciting to hear of a potential residential development on this historic site and wonderful, too, that the potential developer wants to rejuvenate the amphitheatre and keep the historic gates but the ‘ye olde’ facade pastiche replica is completely inappropriate to the authentic heritage building that was destroyed and the new building design.
“There are so many other more respectful and architecturally sensitive ways to pay homage to Alma’s heritage: plaques, interior murals, photo panels, displays, etc., etc.
“The heritage designation must not be removed – a heritage alteration permit can be applied for.”
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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