A 2010 Ontario Municipal Board decision requiring any development on the Alma College property at 96 Moore Street must include “a faithful and accurate replication” of the front facade has polarized the community at large and the active membership of the Alma College International Alumnae Association.
Will it likewise divide members of council on Monday (Sept. 17) when they address the issue of approaching the OMB to rescind the replication condition for development.
The OMB order was registered on the Alma College property Sept. 9, 2010. It was registered by solicitors on behalf of the city and has been in effect for the past eight years.
On the matter of replication, the 44-page decision states, “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 front facade of the Alma College building, which have been demolished, in a location identified by the Schedules to this Order. The replication shall include but not be limited to: doors, color of brick, roof line, and sight lines to a minimum horizontal depth of three meters from the front wall of the new building.”Patriot Properties is proposing a three-tower residential development on the property that, according to president Michael Loewith, “would be impactful and inspiring for this community for generations to come.”
In order to proceed, Loewith is asking council to support “removal of the OMB order” and accept his plan for the “thoughtful interpretation and articulation of the historical significance of this lost institution.”
The city’s Municipal Heritage Committee, whose purpose is to “advise and make recommendations to council on all heritage matters brought to its attention pursuant to the Ontario Heritage Act,” has forwarded to council a motion reached at its Sept. 6 meeting.
In his report to council, chairman Russell Schnurr advises “the committee has no choice but to respect the legally binding OMB order that was executed by the city council of the time and paid for by the taxpayer, as supporting the retraction of such an order could be precedent setting.”
The MHC motion places members of council in an awkward position just five weeks out from the municipal vote.
At a Sept. 4 public open house dealing with the Patriot Properties proposal, Dawn Doty – who resides across the street from the former school for girls – voiced her opposition to any development that does not adhere to the OMB order.
“I would request that this council not consider the application to remove the OMB decision from the property,” said Doty, who was a witness at the OMB hearing and provided the OMB board with clarification relating to the front tower of Alma College.
Her recommendations and clarification are noted in the decision.
“The municipal election is October of this year. I would request that this matter be deferred to the new city council.”
Doty is in favour of the site concept prepared by Fanshawe College students that does honour the OMB decision.
At that same open house Donna Robertson, president of the Alma College International Alumnae Association, stressed “the issue we are here to discuss is an apartment complex on the old Alma College location, not a memorial to Alma College.”
She continued, “We are so pleased to have been included in the planning of this development. We can see that Michael (Loewith) has made every effort to remember Alma College in his proposed development plan.
“He has no obligation to do that. Thank you to Patriot Properties and ERA Architects for all the effort and expense you have put forth to show respect to our Dear Old Alma.
“The OMB decision was put in place to deter any demolition permit. That OMB decision is what, for years after the fire, prevented the sale of the property. And that is what will prevent this proposed development.
“That decision no longer makes sense. There will never be development on that property as long as that requirement stands. It is unaffordable.”
Robertson concluded, “The Alma building is gone, the memories live on through the alumnae and all those who knew her or even simply saw her. I also want to thank all the St. Thomas citizens who have contacted us to thank us for our reasonable position.
“We do not believe that trying to build a pretend Alma building is an appropriate way to remember her.”
Sue Fortin-Smith of St. Thomas, a registered professional planner and former chair of the MHC, countered that with “To suggest and assume that the residents of St. Thomas do not want the replication is foolhardy at best.
“I speak for all those people in St. Thomas on this side of the issue who were born here, who died here, who lived or continue to live here, who all have or had stories about Alma College and loved the building.”
At the public presentation, she stressed “there is no evidence to support the appeal or repeal of the OMB decision. In fact, as I mentioned before, the Briefing Notes repeatedly indicate that ‘A decision by the OMB is final and cannot be appealed.'”
She added, “Excellent replication is possible but Patriot Properties don’t want to pay for it.
“The London and Port Stanley Railway station is a full replica which was built for the IPM (International Plowing Match), disassembled and reassembled at its original location in St. Thomas.
“The people here like the replica and I have heard no complaints to the contrary.”
She too is a proponent of the Fanshawe College concept drawings, which “provide a faithful and accurate replication of the façade and tower in support of the OMB decision which is the legal decision on the table.”
Fortin-Smith reminded the gathering Mayor Heather Jackson and Coun. Jeff Kohler were parties to the OMB decision, as agreed to and registered by the city.
“I find it abhorrent that as soon as a new owner/developer wants to build on the Alma property, that he holds the city hostage with the declaration that the development will only occur if the OMB decision is reversed.”
And Nancy Mayberry, a long-time advocate for heritage preservation, reminded all in attendance, “The fact the buildings are no longer there or that it no longer has a heritage designation does not mean it has lost all historical significance to the public and to the city of St. Thomas.”
Will the passion and compelling arguments presented Sept. 4 by both parties in the Alma facade debate again be front and centre in the public gallery during Monday’s session of council? And to what extent will the ultimate direction taken by council be reflected in the Oct. 22 municipal vote?
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT PATRIOT PROPERTIES?
A visit to their website will reveal little.
Their home page indicates “Patriot Properties Inc. is dedicated to building large & luxurious rental suites within refined and welcoming communities in Ontario. Patriot Properties Inc. believes not only in providing exquisite living spaces for residents, but they are also committed to supporting local, skilled builders, construction experts, and trades people.”
A bare bones indication of who the company is.
Under ‘About Us’ you get a picture of an un-named development in an unidentified city with the following description.
“The vision for Patriot Properties Inc. was fostered by Michael Loewith’s residential real estate sales background and experience. Michael’s ability to understand how people want to live and use a home has dictated how Patriot Properties Inc. designs and manages their communities. Having this innate ability, Patriot Properties Inc’s mandate is to locate, develop, build, and manage unique and visionary purpose-built rental communities that bridge the gap of affordability & luxury.”
Under ‘Past Projects’ you get a different view of what appears to be the same unidentified building with a variety of non-captioned interior photos.
Is this the only project Patriot has undertaken or is the proposed Alma development the initial undertaking for this branch of Loewith’s real estate holdings?
And, what about the man himself.
Do a little searching and you will uncover Loewith was the subject of a 2017 Real Estate Council of Ontario disciplinary hearing to deal with several breaches of the council’s code of ethics.
The matter related to the sale in 2015 of a triplex valued at approximately $1.1 million in an un-named municipality.
At the time, he was a sales representative with a firm only identified as Brokerage A.
In the summary of agreements, it is noted “Loewith failed to treat every person he dealt with in the course of a trade in real estate fairly, honestly and with integrity by failing to ensure that the Property description provided to him was accurate, or in the alternative, upon discovering that the description of “tri-plex” was incorrect, he failed to advise the Seller of his discovery; he further failed to obtain instruction from the Seller to delete the description of “tri-plex”, thereby breaching sections 3 and 5 of the Code of Ethics.”
Furthermore, “Without informing or obtaining the consent of the Seller, Loewith altered the MLS listing by changing the potential income of each unit and further changing the number of kitchens from three to one and further removing the line for potential income; thereby breaching sections 3, 4, 5 and 39 of the Code of Ethics.”
For this indiscretion, he was fined $5,000.
Always good to know who you are dealing with.
STEAM Education Centre board member Andrew Gunn passes along details of a newly launched media outlet in St. Thomas.
Sixteen-year-old high school students Jenn Klassen, Alex Popen and Maddie King – in conjunction with Gunn – have rolled out young & free press, a new media outlet, according to a release, that will operate in St. Thomas, London and additional markets in southwestern Ontario.
The three journalists will “cover local news and events, including what is happening in schools in the area, and explore the local art and food scenes,” advises Gunn.
“We are very excited to be able to launch young & free press in our hometown of St. Thomas,” he enthuses.
“In February 2018, Jenn, Alex, Maddie and I started to work together under the name STEAM City Media, a student project that we undertook with the terrific support of staff and volunteers at the STEAM Centre. Eventually, we decided to take the leap and operate as a privately run enterprise.”
One of their first ventures is a town hall forum, to be held 7:30 p.m. in the CASO station, with the four mayoral candidates in the Oct. 22 municipal vote.
Incumbent Heather Jackson, Coun. Steve Wookey, former MP Joe Preston and Malichi Male will field questions from the intrepid trio of journalists.
On Sept. 26, they will follow up with a similar forum featuring the 19 individuals seeking councillor seats at city hall. This event will also begin at 7:30 p.m., this time at the Elgin County Railway Museum.
The events are being hosted by the Railworks Coalition, the umbrella organization coordinating the efforts of the CASO station, Elgin County Railway Museum, Iron Horse Festival and St. Thomas Elevated Park, to support and develop the historic railway assets in the community.
“We are happy to provide this opportunity to three impressive young people in St. Thomas,” says Larry Longfield, executive director of the CASO station and member of the Railworks Coalition.
A young & free press website is in the works and, in the meantime, you can follow them on Instagram under the username ‘youngfreepress’ and on Twitter at the handle @yfpstthomas.
A BRAND YOU CAN BUILD ON
Built on the past but designed to pave the way for the future, the city’s new branding unveiled last October, has caught the attention of the Economic Developers Association of Canada.
The association is Canada’s national body of economic development professionals, representing every province and territory across the country with nearly 1,000 members.
At their 50th annual conference this month in Fredericton, N.B., the St. Thomas Economic Development Corp. was awarded a Marketing Canada Award for brand identity.
We are officially known as St. Thomas – The Railway City, courtesy of a marketing campaign design created by adHome – an advertising and digital agency based in London – and a city administrative team composed of various department staff.
The new identity for the city is designed to “reflect a strong, close-knit community that’s continually looking to move forward,” as explained last fall by city manager Wendell Graves.
Congratulations to St. Thomas Economic Development Corp. CEO Sean Dyke and all of the individuals involved in the award-winning campaign.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
Visit us on Facebook