Alma College facade a non-starter; will the amphitheatre now be off limits to the community?


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Alma College plaque

Members of city council were unanimous in their decision Monday to initiate the process of rescinding a 2008 Ontario Municipal Board order requiring any development on the Alma property to “include a faithful and accurate representation of the front facade of the college building.”
Reached with a minimum amount of discussion, the motion brings Patriot Properties a step close to commencing work on their three-tower residential development on the Moore Street property.
What is not so clear is whether the developer is backtracking on a statement he made earlier this year regarding the public having access to the amphitheatre at the east end of the property, which will be subject to a heritage easement, according to city manager Wendell Graves. Continue reading

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Facade replication . . . the critical consideration in Alma property development


city_scope_logo-cmykA 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.” Continue reading

Alma facade face-off to be front and centre in the coming month


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you have been following this corner over the past couple of weeks, you know there is a divide in the ranks of the Alma College International Alumnae Association as to whether there is merit to replicating the facade of the main building at the former school for girls as part of proposed three-apartment complex.
At issue here is a 2008 Ontario Municipal Board decision that determined any new development on the Moore Street property must recreate the north façade of Alma to a depth of three metres.
The issue is on the agenda for Monday’s (Aug. 13) meeting of city council.
The developer, Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties, has submitted a letter to council outlining his vision for the Alma College property.
Loewith writes, he was intrigued by the OMB order and the opportunity it presented to pursue his two passions, history and development. Continue reading

Nine years after the fire, a brick from Alma College initiates healing for Ivan Zinn


Vilified for his role in the blaze that hastened the demise of iconic Alma College in St. Thomas, nine years later a shadow has been lifted from Ivan Zinn’s past.
On May 28, 2008, Zinn and a fellow Arthur Voaden Secondary School student scrambled through a back window into Alma College where they set fire to a mattress found under a stairwell, little expecting “all hell to break loose” as described by a member of the St. Thomas Police Service during a taped interview.
Just 15 at the time he and the co-accused were charged with arson and on Sept. 24, 2009, Justice Donald Ebbs sentenced them to two years probation, the maximum allowed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. In addition, they were to undertake 240 hours of community work.

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The city is playing politics insists Sutherland Press building owner


 city_scope_logo-cmykYou had to see this coming. Like watching a train hurtle off the tracks in slow motion, who could not have envisioned the fate of the Sutherland Press building end up back in court, a la 2008.
That summer, after the city began to dismantle the structure that dates back to 1913, all work came to a halt in late July after Justice Peter Hockin ruled in favour of Toronto owner David McGee’s request for leave of appeal, disputing a previous decision made by Justice David Little on July 14 that gave the City of St. Thomas a green light to commence demolition.
Following the successful appeal, McGee’s lawyer, Valerie M’Garry observed, “It gives him (McGee) an opportunity to demonstrate that he always intended to restore and maintain and refurbish that building.”
Eight years later, is McGee convinced he can bring the four-storey building back to life through a conversion to luxury condos?

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Return of bell rings good news for Alma alumnae


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It will never ring again to stir sleepy students or summon legions of exuberant young women to the dining hall, however the return of a truly iconic form of primitive communication is being welcomed by the Alma College community.
It has been some time since this corner has focused on the former school for girls, but the invitation to join Donna Robertson, past-president of the Alma College International Alumnae; Stephen Francom, Elgin County Archives manager; and Mike Baker, Elgin County Museum curator, to provide details on the return to St. Thomas of the Alma College bell proved too tempting to resist.
The bell disappeared some years ago, likely commandeered by a former Alma student in order to provide a safe home as the college faced the spectre of demolition by neglect.

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