Back in February, city council got a first glimpse of what the Alma College property might look like through the eyes of Michael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities.
He envisions a trio of seven-storey residential towers on the Moore Street property, with one of the structures replicating the front facade of the main building at the site of the former school for girls.
His concept for the property is “to create something interesting and unique . . . something to last for a long time.”
At Monday’s (May 14) meeting council will get a look at how the development would be situated on the 11-acre property and authorize staff to prepare official plan and zoning bylaw amendments to proceed with the project.
As per the conceptual drawings, it would appear the amphitheatre at the southeast corner of the property would be maintained – the last real remnant of Alma College, along with the damaged front gate.
Loewith has already stressed, “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.”
The project is to be constructed in three phases, one for each proposed building. According to the information submitted with the application, the Phase 1 building would contain 154 units, the Phase 2 building would have 98 units, and Phase 3 would have 148 units – a total of 400 dwelling units on the 96 Moore Street property.
Low-density housing and open space would be incorporated into the boundary area. The ravine at the south end of the property would be protected.
As per an Ontario Municipal Board order dated January 15,2008, “Any development or re-development of the Subject Property that is permitted by present or future zoning regulations shall include a faithful and accurate replication of the portions of the north (front) facade of the Alma College building, which have been demolished.”
In senior planner Jim McCoomb’s report to council, he notes “The applicability of the Order is being reviewed in light of the destruction of the college by the fire. Until this matter is resolved, it is recommended that any new zoning include a holding provision with a condition that no development be permitted until such time as the matter of the OMB Order has been resolved.”
McCoomb is advising council to approve a public meeting, to be held in the council chamber at city hall at 5:30 p.m. on June 11.
PAINTING THE TOWN TO IMPROVE WESTERN GATEWAY
Work on the city’s social services and housing campus at 230 Talbot Street – developed on land purchased from London developer Shmuel Farhi last year – is still at the hole-in-the-ground stage with the three houses on Queen Street having been levelled this past week.
Actual construction on Phase 1 abutting Talbot Street – which would be the social services building with two floors of 28 affordable housing units – has not yet begun, and yet this week the city received a financial shot in the arm regarding Phase 2 of the project.
The city has received $2.6 million to construct a new facility which will provide 88 child care spaces.
With work expected to begin on Phase 1 this fall, what is the time frame for the second phase of the three-stage “family campus” in the city’s west end?
“We’re going to try to get going on some design work in the next few weeks to develop the project,” advised city manager Wendell Graves.
He continued, “We haven’t seen the agreement (for funding) but I think we have to be under construction, I think, by March of 2019.”
Phase 2 likely will be located on Queen Street, added Graves.
“But we’re going to develop it a bit because there is going to be green space and playgrounds attached to it. So we want to be a little bit creative and flexible.”
The main floor of the child care facility would be in the range of 10-12,000 square feet with the potential of a couple of floors of affordable housing or seniors units above that.
Graves noted the city does not have to match the province’s $2.6 million financial gift.
“The unique thing about this,” added Graves, “is we actually have the money in the bank. It will certainly cover the cost for the child care space.”
At the May 7 reference committee meeting at city hall, Graves updated council on the progress to date on Phase 1, with eight contractors pre-qualified for tendering.
The bids are to close June 5, with the winning tender coming to council at the end of June.
Conceptual drawings could be completed as early as this coming week.
Not only will the Phase 1 structure be an attractive component to the rehabilitation of the city’s west end, it will further enhance the urban environment through the addition of an exterior mural honouring artist Clark McDougall, born in St. Thomas in 1921.
“One of the things we are still trying to figure out is the scale of the space we have, relative to the scale of the drawings Clark did. It could be one work or we could do two or three of his works that fit together.”
My, how the west end of Talbot Street is to be transformed after years of literal neglect, serving as less than an ideal gateway to the city for visitors.
THERE’S STILL A GAP
Last month, OPSEU president Smokey Thomas portrayed the labour situation as “one of the most unfair situations I’ve ever heard of. And at the end of the day, it’s the people of St. Thomas who are paying the price because the health care professionals they depend on are overworked and underpaid.”
Thomas continued, “It’s time this community, and the health professionals who provide care in this community, were treated with fairness and respect,” continued Thomas.
Closing the Gap is a healthcare provider offering services in homes, schools, workplaces, long-term care homes, hospitals, and clinics across Ontario.
OPSEU Local 152 represents 22 health care professionals at Closing the Gap in St. Thomas. Their contract expired on March 31 of last year and conciliation was scheduled for May 2 in London.
Lynne Easter, staff representative at the OPSEU London Regional Office, advised that meeting “resulted in a final offer from the employer that we took to the members. They turned it down 100 per cent.”
The main stumbling block is wages, with Easter previously confirming Closing the Gap earned, on average, $165 per client visit while only paying their employees $46 to $48 per visit.
The employees include a dietitian, a social worker, a speech and language pathologist, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
Easter stressed the $48 average is per visit not per hour.
“We figured it out to an hour and forty-five minutes, that’s the average. It looks like a pretty good hourly rate, but it’s closer to two hours per visit.”
Closing the Gap president Leighton McDonald previously told City Scope he takes issue with the claim St. Thomas workers are not fairly compensated or respected.
“We saw the comment that was sent out by Mr. Thomas and obviously we don’t agree,” advised McDonald.
Meantime, Easter said on Friday she is somewhat surprised members unanimously rejected the latest offer.
“I think it is great that they did turn it down. It was a lousy offer as far as I was concerned. And they forced us into taking it back as a final offer. And, it was a conditional offer. Part of it is conditional on ministry funding. It’s hard for people to vote on that.”
With the provincial election less than a month away, all bets are off as to the direction health care may take.
A second conciliation meeting is scheduled for May 15 in London.
“I don’t know if we’re going to resolve things because of the current state of the government,” advised Easter.
She added, “It astound me no one is making the link to privatization. Many of the (provincial) candidates are going on a platform about health care and we are pushing the anti-privatization agenda.
“When they privatized this company (Closing The Gap) in 2004, the wages were higher than they currently are. This was supposed to save the government money. But no, it’s just going into profit, as far as I’m concerned. But the employer just doesn’t see it.”
Easter notes the employer couldn’t believe the bargaining team wasn’t prepared to sign what management felt was an unprecedented offer, with nobody getting those kinds of increases.”
“They do not seem to understand the per visit rate they are paying them is based on two hours of work. It’s not based on an hourly rate and that’s really concerning to me.”
So what is to be expected at the May 15 conciliation meeting?
“I think it’s a workable offer,” stressed Easter, “if they can firm some things up. We do not want a strike. But, it’s clear to me these folks are prepared to pull the trigger if we don’t get some pretty dramatic changes in the way they are conducting business.”
As to what is being put forth by management, Easter points out they are offering “a one-shot wage deal in one year of the collective agreement, yet they want a three-year deal. They are not offering any retroactive and the contract expired last year. I would usually only sign off on a three-year deal if there was money in the third year and there is no money in the third year. It’s my goal to push that issue.”
Easter did want to clarify one point raised by McDonald, who told this corner “I think the delay (in negotiations) has been on OPSEU’s side.”
“They approached us last summer to come to the table insisting they had some money, and now they don’t. We had a change in staff . . . and it took us a while to get to the table. We didn’t get the bargaining team organized until last fall.”
Watch for an update following the second conciliation meeting.
FOR THE CALENDAR
Serge Lavoie, of St. Thomas Elevated Park fame, forwarded this announcement. “You may have heard that our family is opening a breakfast stand at the Horton Market. Official opening for Bonjour Breakfast is Saturday, May 12.” Enjoy breakfast at the market with an opportunity to get up-to-the-minute progress reports on the park from Serge himself.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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