From community hub to municipal parking lot: Trading spaces on new St. Thomas childcare facility

city_scope_logo-cmykAs we noted last month, the city’s social services and housing hub springing up at 230 Talbot Street has run into what city manager Wendell Graves calls a “soft” business case concerning Phase 2.
Phase 1, well underway, includes office space for the social services department and 28 residential units.
Phase 2 was to include a childcare facility and 24 additional housing units on the second and third floors of the building.
In a report to council in June, Graves warned: “preliminary cost estimates for the construction of the proposed Phase 2 project are high.”
He added, “At this point, the actual business case for the Phase 2 project is soft and the cost per residential unit is projected to be fairly high ($290,515 per unit).

Trouble is, the city has received $2.6 million in funding for the childcare space, with the understanding it must be operational by December of 2020.
Luckily, there is a Plan B which Graves unveiled this past Monday (July 15) at the lone council meeting scheduled for this month.

230 Talbot Street conceptualjpg

Social services and housing hub located at 230 Talbot Street.

The childcare centre is now to be located on the St. Catharine Street parking lot, across from the former Colin McGregor Justice Building.
With this change in plans, Graves noted preparation work on the parking lot site – adjacent to the London & Port Stanley Railway corridor – began a year ago when the city sought to put the former police headquarters up for sale.
“We did some preliminary work . . . and we are doing a little more soil analysis to make sure everything is good. But it does appear good at this point.”
The new location will still allow for 88 childcare spaces as originally planned.
“We have a prescribed formula approved by the province that we have to accommodate,” explained Graves. “Including some outdoor play spaces.”
He is hoping to have the project tendered by mid-September.
“With a construction start before fall is done.”
Vacating the Talbot Street hub allows the city to possibly utilize that space for additional housing, according to Graves.
“With the new construction costs (at 230 Talbot Street), the business case for a limited number of units was driving the price per unit of affordable housing up. So we’re going to be doing a fresh business case looking at increasing the density.
“And also, we’re going to be pursuing some funding that is available, for example through the federal housing strategy, for creation of new units. It is a work in progress.”
Graves is optimistic by early fall recommendations will be ready for council’s consideration.

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Rather symbolic, don’t you think?
Ownership of the Alma College property at 96 Moore Street was officially transferred from London developer Gino Reale to Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties on July 4.
According to the Land Registry Office in St. Thomas, the sum of money involved was $4 million.


Gino Reale of London stands outside the gate of the former Alma College with the music building and chapel still standing.

In confirming the deal, Reale added “They (Patriot Properties) are going to be going gung ho, as I understand. They are now in possession and they are pushing to get this thing up and running.”
This thing being the proposed three-tower residential development on the site of the former school for girls.
Loewith apparently secured a deal earlier this year for the provision of concrete for the project.
Reale added, “He likes to build in the winter because the cost is a little bit less and the availability of more tradespeople.
“They are getting things resolved. The city, I believe, is supporting him 100 per cent because they want to see this thing up and off the ground.”
There is, however, the rather important matter of the heritage easement agreement which is now before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) to remove the requirement of the existing 2008 Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) order that any development or redevelopment of 96 Moore Street include a faithful replication of the north façade of the former Alma College building.
Should the LPAT authorize such an action, the heritage easement agreement would replace the OMB order on the land title.
At that juncture, city manager Wendell Graves has indicated “prior to the development actually proceeding, council will be required to manage the planning matters for the site which include the removal of the holding zones, final approval of the site plan and the city will be required to enter into a Community Improvement Program grant agreement for the project.”
Alma tree removal permitjpg

The fate of the remaining trees after 34 were felled last month and the final landscaping are to be part of the site plan approval.
To re-cap, a permit to remove the trees was issued in April by Julie Tucker of the city’s parks and recreation department to Patriot Properties.
After calls to city hall from several Moore Street residents, the downing of trees was halted.
In a conversation Friday (July 19) with Graves, he advised: “the site plan will still be back in front of council for approval and, at that time, there will be a detailed outline of how the whole new landscape plan fits into the new development.”
As to the status of the heritage easement agreement in the hands of the LPAT, Graves confirmed “we have received notice the information has been received and they will take a look at scheduling.
“I don’t think it is quite understood what kind of a forum they are going to schedule. We are waiting to hear back.”

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As a follow-up to last week’s lead item on a Liberal candidate to represent Elgin-Middlesex-London in the October federal election, there appears to be a second individual preparing to file nomination papers.
David Goodwin of the federal Liberal riding association was not able to identify the person at this time but did confirm “we have another Liberal candidate besides Lori (Baldwin-Sands).”
Still awaiting word on a date and time for the nomination meeting itself, originally scheduled for January.

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On a visit to Cowan Park this week I received an advisory from Southwestern Public Health, which serves Oxford, Elgin and St. Thomas
Tucked under the wiper blade was a colourful notice reminding me smoking tobacco, cannabis or vaping within 20 metres of playgrounds or publicly owned sporting areas is prohibited.
Southwestern Health warning cardjpgThose who ignore the regulation are subject to a $305 fine.
Other prohibited areas covered: enclosed workplaces (including workplace vehicles); enclosed public places; on and within nine metres of restaurant and bar patios; vehicles with children under the age of 16; childcare facilities; on and within 20 metres of school property and publicly owned playgrounds, sporting and spectator areas and community recreational property; grounds of government office buildings and hospitals; and common areas of multi-unit residences.
Southwestern Public Health has a complaint line you can call if you see an individual smoking tobacco, cannabis or vaping in a restricted area.
Call 1-800-922-0096 and a tobacco enforcement officer will follow up.
Not sure how reliable this will be late at night or on weekends and holidays.
And, what travel time is involved. It doesn’t take long to dispose of the evidence.


From the Where Are They Now Department, New Mexico State University has a nifty profile and Q&A with St. Thomas native Brennan Little, an NM State grad in 1993.
After graduating, Little competed for five years in Canada, on the Asian Tour and the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament before making the move over to caddying, teaming up with Brights Grove native Mike Weir in 1999.


Photo courtesy of The Caddie Network

Little is now carrying the bag for Gary Woodland, who captured this year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Little’s advice to student-athletes?
“I always believe that regardless of how good you are in athletics you always need to consider what you are going to do after athletics ends. I don’t care if you play pro sports for years, there will always be a time when it ends and you need to move on. Follow your dreams and try as hard as you can to be a pro athlete, if not you always have something to fall back on.”
You can read the entire profile here. 


Following up on last week’s item on the downing of trees on the Alma College property, Nancy Mayberry sent along this comment.

“I share in Dawn’s (Moore Street resident Dawn Doty) sentiments. The carelessness evident in this granting of a permit to cut down healthy mature trees indicates a need for an overhaul of procedures at city hall.”

As to who the Liberal candidate in Elgin-Middlesex-London this fall, Deb Hardy leaves no doubt.

“Lori Baldwin Sands….just say no.”

And Russell Cloes had this observation.

“It’s almost like the Liberal party is becoming radioactive.”

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