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


Alma College 1891 jpg

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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Nothing says summer like a circus under the big top


city_scope_logo-cmykThere’s no denying he’s chuffed an authentic, European-style circus will entertain at a dozen performances this summer in St. Thomas. But what really has Sean Dyke pumped is the big top tent under which it will perform.
Massive may be a more apt descriptor. The tent is 16,000 square feet in size, holds in excess 0f 2,000 in grandstand seating and 1,000 for catered events. The stage measures 1,260 square feet.
Now those are numbers the general manager over at St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation can really sink this teeth into. A tent with those dimensions shouts possibilities.
Of course the touring Canadian-Swiss Dream Circus – billed on its website as “incredible displays of acrobatic, balance, aerial stunts and thrilling acts” – will occupy the Railway City Big Top for two weekends in August, that’s a done deal.

Grant or sponsorship, nixing request the right move


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Sponsorship or grant, council made the right decision by not immediately approving a request to financially support a new Elgin Business Resource Centre and St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce awards event.
We dwelt on this last week and our municipal officials hashed it around Monday before turning thumbs down on the $5,000 call for support from chamber president Bob Hammersley, who wanted the process fast-tracked.
This is one more reason why the city should follow the lead of Elgin county council and put the hammer down on all new grant requests.
Ratepayers should not be on the hook to support various causes and events cherry-picked by council for consideration.
Continue reading

Council set to strip Alma College of heritage designation


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Two years after Alma College was torched, the city is moving in for the kill.
When it sits Monday, council will consider a report from city clerk Wendell Graves that calls for repealing the heritage designation on the Moore Street property, in place since 1994.
In December of that year, the property and all key buildings were desginated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. The historical significance of the site is also recognized through a provincial plaque, which recently went missing.
This is all possible because in 2007 the city cut a deal with Alma Heritage Estates, owners of the former school for girls since 1998, which allowed the Zubick family of London, Ont., to demolish most of the college.
Under terms of that agreement, the designation bylaw would be repealed and most of the main building, except for a small portion of the facade and belfry tower, would be demolished.
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The sun is shining on Aileen Carroll, but the sun is setting on Ontario’s built heritage


Alma burns, May of 2008

Alma burns, May of 2008

From Bob Foster:
With the release of the “sunshine list” (the $100,000 salary club),it’s appalling to see Minister of Culture Aileen Carroll is making $164,623.53,especially since she has FAILED miserably in her duties as culture minister,and what makes it more shocking is,this minister is also collecting a pension from the federal government,all the while badly neglecting her duties.
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Celebrate Demolition by Neglect Week


As heritage week draws to a close,on Sunday February 22nd 2009,let us not forget all the historic buildings we’ve lost under Culture Minister,Aileen Carroll,and all those buildings that are continuing to face demolition by neglect.Minister Carroll has stood up many a times in the legislature,to boast about the “improved & strengthened” heritage act,but she knows it’s window dressing at best,for she has not enforced the heritage act,as it was intended,instead allowing building after building to fall,or allowing owners to demolition by neglect,until the buildings are so unsafe,the culture ministry just gives the go ahead,to tear them down.Owners of historic buildings in the province of Ontario,are fully aware of Aileen Carroll’s lack of interest in protecting our built heritage,so to speed up the demolition process,they remove windows & doors leaving these historic buildings vulnerable to the harsh Ontario weather,and it doesn’t take an engineer to figure out,the longer the building is open and unprotected,the sooner the owner can apply for a demolition permit.Minister Carroll has failed miserably at protecting Ontario’s built heritage,and if there are any people that doubt that statement,I urge you to drive to the City of St.Thomas,and view what remains of Alma College.On the property at 96 Moore Street,you will find 2 historic structures that survived the horrific blaze in May of 2008,you will also find an outdoor amphi-theatre,all of which are continuing to face,demolition by neglect.We lost the main structure,and will lose the 2 remaining structures,if this minister does not take an interest.The property deserves to be designated as “Provincially Significant”,and if the culture minister could bring herself to realize this fact,St.Thomas,Ontario would then have a reason to celebrate “heritage week”.

Robert F.Foster
Brampton,Ontario

Smoke Clears,Dust Settles,Snow Melts and still no word from Aileen Carroll.


Alma fire, May 28, 2008

Alma fire, May 28, 2008


From: robert_foster2007@hotmail.com

Minister Carroll,
I was reading a quote you recently made regarding heritage volunteers,the quote was “The achievements of these dedicated volunteers help to strengthen communities across Ontario,” said Culture Minister Aileen Carroll. “Their hard
work ensures our rich heritage is conserved and celebrated for generations to
come.”.How could you make such a statement,when you yourself DO NOT “conserve and celebrate”,in fact your motto should be “search and destroy”.It never ceases to amaze me,that you have been quoted on many occasions praising the hard work of heritage voluteers for their tireless efforts,on behalf of our built heritage,then head back to your Queen’s Park office,to sign the demolition papers on some beautiful and historic building,that could be saved with a little help from the ministry of culture,but you would rather bring it down,then assist in bringing it back.Your words are hollow and mean nothing,when it comes to our rich heritage.96 Moore Street has sat abandoned and neglected since the May 2008 fire,the chapel is further damaged,do to the gaping hole in the roof,the music building continues to deteriorate,thanks to the brutal weather here in Ontario,and the outdoor amphi-theatre will surely be unrecognizable,once the snow melts away,so even though the smoke has cleared from the devastating fire in May of 2008,the dust has settled on the demolition that followed the fire,and the snow and ice slowly melts to reveal that nothing has changed on the property in 9 months,one has to wonder what exactly you meant when you said “Their hard
work ensures our rich heritage is conserved and celebrated for generations to come”,because at 96 Moore Street,in St.Thomas,nothing has been conserved and there is no sign of celebration,however “demolition by neglect” has been evident for many years.I do applaud all the heritage volunteers and heritage advocates,who stand up for our built heritage,now if we could only put someone at the helm of the ministry of culture,who has the same passion,we would be well on our way to “conserving and celebrating”…
Quote taken from the following news article:
Aileen Carroll

Robert F.Foster
Brampton,Ontario