From designation to easement: Alma’s heritage rise and fall


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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

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Area residents to become ‘sacrificial lambs’ in Alma project? – St. Thomas planner Sue Fortin-Smith


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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

Covering the bases so Walnut Manor residents don’t fall through the cracks . . . again


city_scope_logo-cmykOn any given night, anywhere from a dozen to 18 of the city’s most vulnerable citizens lay down their heads in bed bug infested rooms at a dilapidated facility wanting for even the most basic of housekeeping efforts.
Their daily menu, as aptly described by lawyer advocate Elena Dempsey, is appalling not appealing.
And now, we find out these residents of Walnut Manor will not even benefit from the simple comfort of knowing their long-past-the-best-before-date hovel will be equipped with a life-saving sprinkler system.
Why is it other residential care facilities in St. Thomas are mandated to install sprinkler systems by the end of the year and yet this independent supportive living home operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland is exempt from this regulation?
Why is it, once again, the residents of Walnut Manor fall through the cracks?
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Gated Alma College development will ‘contribute to the wellbeing of the greater St. Thomas community’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s official, the residential development proposed for the Alma College property will be a gated community, but there will be no similarity to large undertakings of the same nature south of the border.
That’s according to a letter from developer Michael Loewith, whose Patriot Properties is seeking to begin construction of a three-tower project on the Moore Street property.
The letter and several updated supporting documents are in response to questions and concerns raised at a site plan committee meeting held Nov. 13.
In his clarification letter, to be presented with the other reports at the next site plan committee meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday (Dec. 12), Loewith responds to questions relating to public access to the 11-acre site and, in particular, the amphitheatre.
Loewith writes, “While we attempted to provide a clear response regarding these concerns at the meeting, we may not have been as descriptive about our plans as we would have like, and so we are providing this letter to make our intentions clear.”

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Casting a shadow over development of Alma College property


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Alma College plaque

At a reference committee meeting in February of this year, he promised to build “something that is beautiful” on the 11-acre former site of Alma College.
His proposed development would consist of a trio of seven-storey apartment buildings and the Moore Street property would be laced with a system of pathways, while the iconic amphitheatre would be for the use of “everybody in the community. That’s part of the history of the community and that should be for everybody.”
In the intervening months, the residential undertaking has evolved with one of the towers now pegged at nine stories and the amphitheatre will be for the use of residents and their visitors to the complex.
And, at a site plan control committee meeting Nov. 13, developer Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties suggested the development would be a gated community, putting public access to the trail system and amphitheatre in doubt.

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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

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