By: St. Thomas Times Journal Staff
March 11, 2003

Structure showing its age, but can handle renovations

Definitely showing her age, but certainly not on the critical list.

Members of St. Thomas council were presented with a superstructure inspection report Monday evening that indicates Alma College is sound enough to undergo renovations, an opinion that likely will sidetrack efforts by owner Brian Squires to demolish the former private school for girls.

The report, prepared by Santarelli Engineering Services of London, Ontario, was requested following Squires' deputation to council members on Jan 20, 2003 seeking a demolition permit.

At that time council agreed unanimously to defer approval of the permit and forward the issue to the Municipal Heritage Committee (MHC) of St. Thomas, formerly the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC), for comment.

Immediately following that meeting of council, Angus Walton, Co-chairman of the MHC, expressed his desire to call in an independent engineer to assess the structural soundness of the main building.

"And I think you would have to have someone who is an expert come in and take a look at the building," stressed Walton, "and say yes or no as to whether it is sound or not and go from there."

Squires, on behalf of Alma Heritage Estates, sought the demolition permit after city council last December rejected the site as a possible location for the replacement Valleyview Home for the Aged.

Santarelli Engineering undertook a visual inspection of the superstructure of the main building, which dates back to 1877, and found "the existing wood timber framing is generally in good condition. Some areas require repair or replacement, but overall it is adequate for the purposed renovation (Squires proposal for a seniors village). The areas that require repair can be identified and restored at the time of renovation."

Walter Santarelli, president of the firm, went on to note "the existing brick and mortar is generally in good condition. Some areas require repointing or replacement due to water damage, this is not uncommon in buildings of this age. The repairs can be completed at the time of renovation."

Santarelli concluded, "Based on our visual inspection only, the overall existing superstructure is in good condition for the age of the building. It is our opinion that the purposed renovation to the structure can be completed, along with minor repairs to the existing structure as previously mentioned."

Council agreed unanimously to forward a copy of the report to Walton and the MHC so that it may prepare its comments to members regarding the issuance of the demolition permit.