Alma Owners Table New Offer

By: Hank Daniszewski - Free Press Reporter
April 16, 2003

ST. THOMAS - The struggle to save historic Alma College took another turn this week as the owners of the property put a new deal on the table.

Brian Squires, representing Alma Heritage Estates, appeared before council Monday offering to sever about one hectare behind the historic building in a last-ditch effort to persuade council to locate the Valleyview Home for the Aged on the site.

Squires said he would turn over the land in return for a tax receipt, similar to a deal worked out with the owner of the site where the city's downtown arena will soon be built.

Squires had wanted the city to co-sign a loan that would allow him to develop the former private girls' school into 66 units of seniors' housing in combination with the Valleyview project.

But council turned down Squires in December, choosing a site on Burwell Road for Valleyview instead.

Squires then applied for a demolition permit for Alma, but it was denied by council.

The world-famous school opened in 1881 and closed in 1994. The building, considered a treasure of Victorian architecture, has been damaged by weather and vandalism.

Squires said he is not expecting any city help in redeveloping Alma in return for the severance.

"What we do with the remaining property is our business," he said.

Council did not reply directly to Squires but Ald. Jeff Kohler said the councillors would seek assurance Squires will redevelop Alma if they decide to locate Valleyview on the site.

"We would have to come back for a reason and the reason is to save that building."

Squires said he could get more leverage from lenders to redevelop Alma with a tax receipt and a commitment from the city to build Valleyview on the site.

But he would not offer city council any guarantees.

"They weren't prepared to give me any guarantees," he said in an interview after the meeting.