Evident by the questions raised by a couple of councillors at Monday’s (March 15) meeting, the Alma College Square development still generates concern even while the skeleton of Phase 1 reaches skyward.
While council did approve amendments to the plans for the three-tower residential development, unanswered questions remain.
Issues revolve around traffic flow, the final colours of the structures, why the site plans seemed to be in a constant state of flux, Community Improvement Plan funding and, most puzzling of all, why was a Wellington street access to the former Alma College property nixed?
Developer Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties, at times, added to the confusion, in particular as to what shades and hues the exterior of the buildings will wear.
Coun. Jeff Kohler perhaps put it best when he observed, “I’m certainly not going to accept buying a red car when I ordered a blue one.”
A reference initially alluded to by Coun. Steve Peters.
It has a long and storied history. Of course, the St. Thomas Elgin Memorial Centre was long the home of the St. Thomas Stars and before that, the Pests and the Barons.
How many of you remember the short-lived Wildcats of the Colonial Hockey League who called Memorial Arena home for three years before morphing into the London Wildcats and then the Dayton Ice Bandits?
The old barn is seeped in hockey history but its defining moment may very well be written this spring and summer.
Over the past couple of weeks, the venerable facility built in 1953 has been transformed into an impressive vaccination hub where tens of thousands of area residents – certainly far more than the 2,600 or so hockey fanatics who could jam the stands and walking track for a game – will wend their way through the structure and emerge after a shot of insurance against the coronavirus.
Tremendous gratitude is owed Cynthia St. John, Jaime Fletcher and the rest of the hard-working staff at Southwestern Public Health and their community partners who have ironed out every last detail to open up the vaccination clinic Monday morning to get down to the business of corralling the coronavirus.
We’ve all seen ads like these featuring some product with the disclaimer, ‘May not be exactly as pictured’ or ‘Object appears larger for display purposes’.
Seems that may be the case with Phase 1 of the three-tower residential development rising up on the former Alma College property.
The renderings of the apartment buildings appear different than the original site plans approved by the city.
That was the focus of a lengthy Q&A during the Feb. 12 meeting of the site plan control committee held online with city staff and developer Michael Loewith and his team.
The bone of contention was whether the approved permit drawings for the Phase 1 building are substantially in conformance with the site plan agreement.
Absolutely not, argued Alma College watchdog Dawn Doty – who lives right across the street – and architect Ed van der Maarel, also a neighbour of the grandly named Alma College Square.
The 156-unit Phase 1 is scheduled for completion in 2022.
Doty has a front-row seat on what is transpiring on the Moore Street property and she noted during the meeting, “Looking at the original site plan drawings, what I’m seeing outside my window is tremendously different than what I first saw. Would you agree with that?”
The space is available and waiting, staff are trained and ready to go and the service could be up and running six months after approval.
The choke point in this essential service for St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is provincial Ministry of Health approval.
At Monday’s (Feb. 8) meeting, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Robert Biron made a compelling presentation to council on the need to equip the facility with an MRI scanner.
Biron referred to it as “A basic medical technology for any community hospital.”
He added, “We are one of the few medium-sized hospitals in the province that does not provide the service.”
Biron continued, “We are one of the few counties in the province that does not have access to the service.”
Very curious indeed in that STEGH has been a designated stroke centre since 2016 but does not have a scanner that is required for treating stroke and is integral in the management of many colorectal and breast cancer cases.
Biron went on to note, “an MRI scanner is essential in the diagnosis and management of orthopedic conditions.”
As 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).
With just 99 days until the federal election, you might very well be wondering who the Liberal party has tasked with attempting to unseat incumbent Karen Vecchio in Elgin-Middlesex-London (EML) riding.
Well, the short answer is no one.
The nomination meeting was originally scheduled for January and here we are midway through July with no designated candidate although we know Lori Baldwin-Sands has filed papers.
Will she be acclaimed at some point in the very near future?
A phone call to David Goodwin of the federal Liberal riding association should result in some answers.
“They haven’t called the nomination yet,” advised Goodwin.
Exactly four years ago, we wrote at length about workplace harassment at city hall, referring to it as a “toxic environment.”
At that time, we postulated the City of St. Thomas, as a corporation, should be held to a high standard of excellence with regard to a workplace environment.
The issue in 2015 involved a city employee we identified as ‘Dave’ and his allegations of verbal and physical abuse involving fellow employees and managers.
In a conversation in June of that year with human resources manager Graham Dart, he conceded “As an employer, we don’t have to guarantee a harassment-free workplace, because we can’t do that.
“There is no expectation or requirement of that. But there is an obligation on our part — especially under the Occupational Health & Safety Act — that we address harassment in the workplace.”
Alma College, 1891. Photo courtesy Elgin County Archives.
Exactly one year ago today (Feb. 20), the journey to what is hoped to become the revitalization of the Alma College property began in earnest.
That afternoon, Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties, met for the first time with members of council and staff at the regularly scheduled reference committee meeting to introduce his proposal for the site of the former school for girls at 96 Moore Street.
Currently owned by London developer Gino Reale, the property is bereft of all but a few vestiges of its former life.
Patriot Properties is seeking the go-ahead to construct a trio of residential towers on the Moore Street property. The development is to be completed in three phases over several years and, when finished, will be comprised of 430 apartment units. Continue reading
McIntyre Street residences
More than a decade ago, we began referring to St. Thomas resident Dawn Doty as the Alma College watchdog. That was prior to the May 28, 2008 fire that marked the beginning of the end for the former school for girls.
Doty, who owns property on McIntyre Street across from the three-tower residential development proposed by developer Michael Loewith, was instrumental – via a Freedom of Information request – in obtaining an Ontario Heritage Trust report which the provincial government of the day withheld from the public for more than two years.
That document encouraged “the municipality to refuse any request for demolition or substantial alteration that would destroy the building or heritage attributes.”
It’s a moot point all these years later, but it demonstrates the passion of the Alma watchdog.
At Monday’s meeting (Feb. 11) she and Sue Fortin-Smith – a registered professional planner and former chair of the city’s Municipal Heritage Committee – appeared in separate deputations to council regarding what they believe are shortcomings in reports related to the development of the Moore Street property. Continue reading