St. Thomas Elevated Park: An exciting ‘piece of the puzzle’ for the city


city_scope_logo-cmyk“We’re just turning the corner and making it a people place.”
Of course Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas, is referring to the Michigan Central Railroad bridge spanning Kettle Creek which is being transformed into the St. Thomas Elevated Park.
In a conversation with Lavoie this week, he had exciting news on the status of Canada’s first such park.
“The first section of the bridge is actually pretty safe right now so except on days when we might be doing heavy construction, we’re going to start opening it this spring,” advised Lavoie.
“We’ll have the gates open, likely by Easter weekend and it will remain open all the time and only close to the public on the odd day when we have a work crew there.
“We want people to go up there and enjoy it because the railing system is in place, it’s very safe. And now, people should go up and enjoy it and watch our progress.”

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MPP Jeff Yurek is on the hunt for honesty when doling out MNR funds


city_scope_logo-cmykIntroduced March 7 at Queen’s Park, a private members bill to shine a light on how funds in a Ministry of Natural Resources special purpose account are spent was shot down a day later.
The fund was initially established by the provincial Tories in the late 1990s, explained Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek.
“Back in 1997, the Mike Harris government created the fund as a way of expanding licences across the province, but also letting the hunters and angles have a say in how resource management should be done.
However, handling of the fund has come under fire in recent years for the lack of transparency and questionable expenditures.
Yurek spent seven years working with the Aylmer Stakeholders Group, representing landowners and farmers, to have the provincial Liberals tighten up spending requirements for the fund, which collects $75 million annually in licensing feeds from hunters and anglers. Continue reading

An August start on Alma property? ‘Technically it’s possible.’


city_scope_logo-cmykMichael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities made an impressive presentation to city council Tuesday, outlining his proposal for developing the Alma College property.
There have been proposals in the past for the site of the former school for girls, so is this latest presentation the real deal?
“He (Loewith) is the right guy,” insisted London Developer Gino Reale, current manager of the Moore Street property.
“It took a little while to find him. But, I think we found the right guy . . . I’m not a builder, but if I find the right guy then that’s who is going to buy it. And this guy, in my books, is the right guy.”
Loewith has a conditional offer to purchase the property, as Reale explained earlier this week.
“There are conditions on the offer until April. As far as he (Loewith) is concerned, it’s a done deal. Until he sends me the paperwork and says he waives the conditions – which was primarily this meeting with council and a couple of other minor things – it will solidify or fall apart by April.” Continue reading

Bridging the gap: Province acknowledges local concerns with new 401 interchange


city_scope_logo-cmykThe province has listened and the stretch of Glanworth Drive known as the farmer’s freeway will remain intact with a new alignment of the overpass at Highway 401.
At a public information centre held Thursday (Feb. 1) at the Stoneridge Inn, London, the Ministry of Transportation unveiled its preferred alternative for interchange improvements at the 401 and Col. Talbot Drive.
The original plan would have seen the Glanworth Drive bridge demolished, forcing farmers to move their massive implements on to busier roads. The new interchange will see the Glanworth Bridge replaced and realigned further east with the roadway repositioned to meet Col. Talbot Drive north of its present junction at Littlewood Drive. Continue reading

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


After nine years of legal wrangling, a bevy of engineering reports, much dizzying debate over semantics and hair-splitting, we finally have a definitive answer from on high.
The Sutherland Press building is unsafe. That’s the determination of Justice Peter Hockin handed down this week along with confirmation building orders issued in 2015 and 2016 have been confirmed as valid.
All right, but now what?
City manager Wendell Graves advised the next step for the city is consultation with legal counsel John Sanders, but “In the absence of any action by the owner, the city will want to make the area safe again as soon as possible.” Continue reading

Of Mark Twain and the London-centred school board


 city_scope_logo-cmyk“You close down a school in a small town and kids suddenly spend hours on the bus going to other communities.” That’s an observation from David Thompson, chairman of the Near North District School Board in Ontario, gleaned from a St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce news release calling for a moratorium on school closures.
At the May 6 Ontario Chamber of Commerce convention in Sarnia, member chambers adopted a resolution “supporting a moratorium on closures and for organizations including the Chamber to be engaged by the school boards to consult economic impact.”
In St. Thomas and Elgin, the Thames Valley District School board will decided later this month on a proposal to close schools in Sparta, New Sarum, South Dorchester and Springfield. Sparta would be the first to close and then be re-purposed as a second French Immersion school in Elgin.

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Market study recommends more retail in downtown core; revitalization of Elgin Mall


city_scope_logo-cmykIn the period 2000 to 2015, St. Thomas experienced an almost three-fold increase in vacant commercial retail space. That’s one of the key findings in a 2015 retail market study to be presented to council Monday.
The study, undertaken by Dillon Consulting and W. Scott Morgan & Associates, sought to “analyse the ability of the city’s commercial policy framework to support the health of its retail market, while identifying the evolving retail market trends that may affect St. Thomas.”
The city has 2.46 million square feet of retail commercial space – an increase of 15 per cent since 2007 – but in that total, 313,000 square feet is vacant, up from 114,000 in the year 2000.

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