So, 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 to allow administration to begin the notice of intent process to declaring the vacant Trinity Anglican Church at 55 Southwick Street 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.
Video surveillance will soon be keeping a watchful eye over the city’s downtown core. At Tuesday’s (May 19) meeting, members of council will be asked to endorse Phase 1 of a project that will see the installation of eight CCTV cameras along a two-kilometre stretch of Talbot Street, from CASO Crossing to Queen Street. The locations were selected based on 2018/19 crime mapping data and motor vehicle collision reporting information. In a report to council from city police, it is noted the CCTV program “is a proactive, local solution modelled on successful networks in other municipalities to enhance community well-being and assist the St. Thomas Police Service with solving crime.” Right now when a crime is committed downtown, police need to canvass businesses to see if they have surveillance footage as evidence.
In 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.
Pending council approval, the city will proceed with design work for Phase 2 of Talbot Street redevelopment.
With successful completion of the initial phase last summer – at a cost of $3.2 million – the plan is to move east and begin work on that stretch of the roadway between Pearl and Mary streets.
Survey work will begin in the near future and include locates of existing utilities, a process that should entail little in the way of disruption to pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
This second phase will continue the success of the streetscape theme undertaken last year, advised David Jackson, the city’s manager of public works.
“The aesthetics of the street will be enhanced, a pedestrian friendly zone will be prioritized, and the majority of existing parking spaces will be maintained,” wrote Jackson in a release.
The project will include replacement of the sanitary sewer, watermain, utilities, road, sidewalk, and streetlights.
As was the case last spring and summer, Talbot Street will be closed to vehicular traffic in a phased fashion.
The construction will “include tight schedule deadlines and financial penalties to ensure it is completed as quickly as possible,” stressed Jackson.
Pedestrian access will more or less be maintained, with minor disruptions.
While no date has yet been established, Jackson advised a public meeting will be held in late 2017 where residents and business owners will have an opportunity to review the plans and learn more about construction timing and impacts.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
Attracting interested and involved participants was not an issue Monday evening (March 27) at an information night to introduce a partnership between the STEAM Centre, housed in the former Wellington Public School, and the Thames Valley District School Board. The pilot project will see participating Grade 10 students from the city’s three TVDSB high schools work collaboratively for one semester before returning to their home schools.
One of the biggest proponents of the STEAM Centre is board member Andrew Gunn, trustee of the Dorothy Palmer Estate which contributed $638,000 to help launch the alternative education project.
Gunn sees the St. Thomas centre as a template for what can be undertaken in communities across the province threatened with losing their schools.
The rich history of the city’s Talbot Street commercial core should be protected through the creation of a heritage conservation district.
That was the recommendation put forth in a presentation to city council Monday by Stantec Consulting, hired to identify and evaluate heritage buildings and landscapes along the downtown corridor.
Preserving examples of Italianate and Edwardian architecture from the halcyon days of commercial growth in the late 1800s and early 1900s warrants designation of a heritage conservation districts stretching from Stanley Street in the west to Alma Street in the east and including the railway lands encompassing the Elgin County Railway Museum, advised Lashia Jones of Stantec Consulting.
Can St. Thomas – specifically the downtown corridor – support another retail grocery store?
That will be the focus of a public meeting to be held 5:45 p.m. May 8 in the council chamber at city hall as Gyulveszi Holdings Inc., have applied to the city for permission to locate a grocery store at 780 Talbot Street, the home of Giant Tiger since 2000.
The city this week locked in place two more pieces of the Talbot Street West redevelopment puzzle with announcement of the purchase of two properties from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The acquisitions are the Mickleborough Building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and stretching south to Centre Street.
While a conditional offer was announced last April the delay, according to city manager Wendell Graves, revolved around environmental issues.
“We have done due diligence over and above so we know exactly what we are facing,” stressed Graves. “In our approved city budget this year we have funds allocated there to begin some cleanup. Because we are looking to use pieces of that site for residential, under the Ministry of the Environment regs, that is the highest order of cleanup that will be required.”
There’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.