‘The fiasco of Alma College should not be repeated’


city_scope_logo-cmykSo, what do you do with a vacant downtown church that is described as “an exemplary building representing the economic, cultural and architectural values of the City of St. Thomas?”
And, how does the city protect this architectural gem now that it is on the selling block?
City council on Monday (July 13) is being asked to designate the former Trinity Anglican Church at 55 Southwick Street as a heritage property under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The current owner (the Anglican Diocese) is not considering designation at this time, and why would they? That move would certainly impact the sale of the property.
The church was officially opened on May 27, 1877, built to replace Old St. Thomas Pioneer Church on Walnut Street.

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Hospice of Elgin: An investment ‘in more than bricks and mortar’


city_scope_logo-cmykFour months ago, the province green-lighted an end-of-life residential hospice for St. Thomas and Elgin.
And Thursday (Jan. 16) city council got an enhanced picture of what the palliative care facility will look like and feel once inside.
In her presentation to Mayor Joe Preston and councillors, Laura Sherwood, director of hospice partnerships with St. Joseph’s Health Care Society, detailed the pressing need for the Hospice of Elgin, which will serve the only county in southwestern Ontario currently without a community-based hospice.
Sherwood noted each year, more than 800 people in St. Thomas and Elgin die without adequate services, “placing tremendous pressures on families, caregivers, and our local health care system.”
Within the next dozen years or so, that figure is expected to increase by as much as 50 per cent.

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From ‘beyond broken’ to a transit system St. Thomas can be proud of


city_scope_logo-cmykTransit was a prominent talking point leading up to last year’s municipal vote and now, thanks to provincial funding, city residents may soon be standing at a bus stop of “a transit system we can all be proud of.”
At an announcement Thursday (Aug. 8) in front of city hall, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek indicated the provincial government is committing $1.8 million for transit projects in St. Thomas.
The money will be used for fleet upgrades – including the purchase of 10 new buses with an additional four vehicles for future expansion – and transit technology, including priority signalling for buses at designated intersections.
In addition, the transit projects are being nominated for federal funding under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), a $30 billion, 10-year infrastructure initiative cost-shared between federal, provincial and municipal governments.

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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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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

Finding those new jobs is like finding a life mate


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A question for you: What is this city’s greatest export? Why, of course, shipping mayors off to China and Japan.
With no fanfare, Mayor Heather Jackson announced this past Wednesday at the State of the Municipalities luncheon she plans to join other representatives from the Southwestern Ontario Marketing Alliance in May for a trip to South Korea and Japan.
It’s a safe bet if you polled the aldermen at city hall they had not an inkling of this trip.
A trip that continues a tradition in St. Thomas dating back to 2006, when then Mayor Jeff Kohler winged his way to Japan.
That junket resulted in the first ripples of discontent amongst city ratepayers.
Reader Eric Swales fired off this comment to City Scope at the time: “Maybe the mayor can forget the trip to Japan and put the cost savings to some road or sidewalk upgrades instead. Isn’t that why we pay the Economic Development Corporation’s manager (Bob Wheeler) to go on these trips?”
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St. Thomas consolidated courthouse project moves ahead


For Immediate Release February 8, 2011

Preserving the past; building for the future

ST. THOMAS – Steps to preserve the unique heritage aspects of the historic Elgin County Courthouse on Wellington Street are underway, as the process to build the new St. Thomas Consolidated Courthouse continues.

Salvage operations will begin this week on some of the buildings on the courthouse property including the former Governor’s Residence.
Workers on the site will begin salvaging the bricks and slate roof from the former Governor’s Residence. Most of the salvaged materials will be presented to the City of St. Thomas for use in the restoration and repair of municipal buildings. The remainder of the materials will be available for sale to the community, the proceeds of which will go to the St. Thomas Municipal Heritage Committee for preservation work in the area.
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