After ten years, the hostages are to be set free


27jt01sutherlandjpgAfter a ten-year legal battle and two previous failed attempts, the city of St. Thomas today (Oct. 19) was given the green light to demolish a derelict downtown building.

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Sutherland Press building in 2008, prior to partial demolition of front face

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the city, denying owner David McGee’s most recent attempt at intervention to halt demolition of the four-storey Talbot Street edifice dating back to 1913.

“The courts found in favour of the city including the awarding of costs,” advised city manager Wendell Graves in an email.

Last week, the Court of Appeal allowed McGee to represent the parent company, Sutherland Lofts Inc. Previously McGee had relied on legal counsel Valerie M’Garry.

In 2008, Justice David Little commented ““The city has acted properly throughout. That cannot be said for the owner. The city is effectively being held hostage, as are its citizens, by an apparent shell corporation that has proven itself unreliable.”

Justice Peter Hockin, in June of this year, ruled  two work orders issued by the city in 2015 and 2016 are valid. Thereby confirming the structure was, indeed, unsafe.

Graves advised the city will be in discussion with the demolition contractor – Schouten  Excavating of Watford – to begin tearing down the crumbling building as soon as they can mobilize their equipment. Demolition is expected to take about 30 days.

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City of St. Thomas to unveil a-track-tive new corporate brand


city_scope_logo-cmykSubject to council approval Monday, the city will no longer be officially known as the Corporation of the City of St. Thomas, but instead St. Thomas – The Railway City.

And with it, new branding courtesy of 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,” according to city manager Wendell Graves.

In addition, it is designed to “reflect a vibrant culture and progressive business ideals looking to the future with a nod to the past,” continues Graves in his report to council.

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Best of intentions reduced to dust in Sutherland Press building demolition


city_scope_logo-cmykCity manager Wendell Graves advises Schouten Excavating employees are expected on site at the Sutherland Press building the week of Oct. 16 to begin demolition work.
According to the city’s agreement, the contractor has 30 days to demolish the four-storey structure, although as chief building inspector Chris Peck indicated previously, the site itself may not be totally cleared of debris in that period of time.
Once demolition has reached a certain stage, re-opening of the adjacent transit centre will be possible.
At this point, Talbot Street will remain open during the demolition and Graves adds Moore Street may be opened to traffic sooner than expected if the demolition work can be contained on site. Continue reading

Only a matter of time now for Sutherland Press building


Will it be a case of third-time success for the City of St. Thomas? Monday evening (Sept. 18), city council accepted the $197,000 tender from Schouten Excavating of Watford to demolish the derelict Sutherland Press building that looms over the downtown core.
Schouten had been the successful bidder in 2016 when it was awarded the contract for $101,000.
It’s the third time in nearly a decade the city has attempted to level the building that dates back to 1913. Continue reading

Third time lucky as city pursues demolition in Sutherland saga?


Round 3 of the Sutherland Press demolition derby is officially underway. At Monday’s council meeting, city manager Wendell Graves advised the paperwork is being drawn up this week seeking requests for proposal for demolition of the four-storey Sutherland Press building.
It’s the third time in nine years the city has undertaken this process, and the fact the building that dates back to 1913 is still standing is testament to the success of the previous two attempts.

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Sutherland Press building in 2008, prior to partial demolition of front face

In 2008, a determination from Justice David Little paved the way to for partial demolition of the top floor of the structure. A process halted almost immediately by Justice Peter Hockin. The same Justice Hockin who, in June of this year, upheld the validity of a pair of work orders issued by the city calling for remedial work to be performed on the structure.
In other words, Hockin concurred with engineering reports undertaken by the city and ruled the building is unsafe.
And that has prompted a third kick at the demolition can.
In between these two attempts, the city in February of 2016 awarded a demolition tender to Schouten Excavating of Watford in the amount of $101,135.
Earlier this month, Graves confirmed  “technically that tender was not active.”
And so, here we go again as the city takes a cautious approach to proceeding with demolition of the building owned by David McGee of Toronto.
Speaking with Graves in his office today (Aug. 22), he made it clear everything must be buttoned down when announcing the winning bid because McGee ultimately will be presented with the bill.

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A conceptual drawing of what the Sutherland Press building might possibly look like if successfully converted into a condominium development.

Will companies be reluctant to submit proposals because of past history?
Graves felt this would not be a problem as there was no shortage of interested parties in 2016.
He added a report should come to council in mid-September with the tender proposals.
Meantime,McGee’s lawyer Valerie M’Garry was unavailable today for comment.
Following Hockin’s ruling in June, she told City Scope “We’re optimistic of approaching the municipality and saying here’s a proposal for you, let’s move forward rather than spending time on appeals and things like that.”
She added at that time,  “I think there’s an onus on both parties. We have to pony up and they have to be willing to listen. Both parties have to be willing to come to the dance. And we can do some things that will assuage the city’s concerns and ultimately be to the advantage of the building.”
Graves confirmed again today, neither M’Garry nor McGee has engaged in any dialogue with the city on the next step following the ruling from Justice Hockin.

Related posts:

Charting the pathway to demolition and freedom for the hostages

No throwing caution to the wind in this chapter of the Sutherland Saga

After nine years, it’s time to pony up and listen

Thirty days and counting in the Sutherland Saga

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Charting the pathway to demolition and freedom for the hostages


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter nine years, the city finally benefits from a legal determination the Sutherland Press building is, indeed, unsafe but does the ruling from Justice Peter Hockin mean the hostage taking in St. Thomas is nearing a conclusion?
The city has chosen to take a cautious approach, something it can’t be faulted on after a 2008 ruling from Justice David Little triggered partial demolition of the top floor of the four-storey structure. A process halted almost immediately by the same Justice Hockin.
What is most frustrating is the continued lack of movement on the part of owner David McGee since the June 28 decision that upheld a pair of city work orders. Attempts by McGee and his lawyer, Valerie M’Garry, to convince both Hockin and city staff that the financial picture had somehow improved – to the tune of $50,000 – were laughable. 
Surely the unpaid bills would gobble that up in prompt fashion.
M’Garry had indicated to this corner the next step would be dialogue with the city on moving forward.
So, how is that working out?

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No throwing caution to the wind in this chapter of the Sutherland Saga


city_scope_logo-cmykThe Sutherland Saga forecast for next week?
Cautious for the next few days.
With the 30-day appeal period having expired this past week and no indication Sutherland Press building owner David McGee intends to challenge the June 28 decision handed down by Justice Peter Hockin that, in essence, the four-storey downtown edifice is in fact unsafe, is that the wrecker’s ball we hear approaching?
Not so fast, advises city manager Wendell Graves who indicated Friday the city is taking a cautious approach at this time.
He advised while no word has been received from McGee or his lawyer Valerie M’Garry an appeal is in the works, it is better to err on the side of caution while seeking advice from legal counsel. Continue reading