Demolition Denied

By: Times-Journal Staff
St. Thomas Times Journal - March 18, 2003

Heritage Committee Says Alma Should Not Be Razed

Calling it a decision "fair to both parties," the municipal heritage committee (MHC) recommended to St. Thomas council Monday evening that a demolition permit not be issued to Alma Heritage Estates.

The permit to demolish Alma College had been requested Jan. 15 by Brian Squires, owner of the former private school for girls, following an unsuccessful bid two days previously to sway members of council to consider the site for a replacement for Valleyview Home for the Aged.

In his recommendation Angus Walton, co-chairman of the MHC (formerly the local architectural conservation advisory committee) wrote, "it is the unanimous opinion of the municipal heritage committee that a demolition permit not be issued at this time."

Improvement Plan Is City's Alma Focus

The MHC finding was based on a superstructure inspection report prepared by Santarelli Engineering Services of London, Ont., and presented to city council last Monday.

The report 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 proposed renovation to the structure can be complete, along with minor repairs to the existing structure as previously mentioned."

Squires is proposing to build a seniors village in the main building and has urged the city to locate the new seniros home on land immediately to the south.

In a conversation with the Times-Journal last week, Squires speculated "the MHC will say we souldn't issure a demolition permit and I hope that dispels the fears that the builing is just going to topple. And with those fears gone, and the public outcry over the demolition permit, city council has heard just how important the building is and I hope they are prepared to sit down and discuss what really can be done and that is where I want to go."

Council unaminously voted to adopt the MHC recommendation and, at the urging of Ald. Marie Turvey, city staff and interested members of council will meet with Squires to discuss possible options for Alma College in the city's recently approved community imporbement plan.

Members also agreed with the suggestion of Ald. Terry Shackelton that any discussions with Squires be limited to the community improvement plan and they should not broach the issue of a location for the new seniors home.

Following Monday's council meeting, Walton noted Alma College is one of five key buildings that define St. Thomas and in making a recommendation agains issuing a demolition permit committee members took into account the need to make a decision, "that would be fair" to both Squires and the city.

"The biggest problem is trying to be fair to all parties, we could make a decision unilaternally that would suit us but it wouldn't suit the other two parties, we have to be fair."