By By Patrick Brennan, Times-Journal Staff
St. Thomas Times Journal
Wednesday September 19, 2007
"It is with a heavy heart that I make this proposal because it involves the dismantling of Alma College," Andrew Gunn, president of the Alma College Foundation, told city council.
Members of the Alma College Foundation suggested Monday an agreement that could
breathe new life into the legacy of a St. Thomas landmark. The proposal, put
before St. Thomas council, was for the foundation to enter into an agreement
with the current owner of the Alma College property, Alma Heritage Estates Corp.,
to retrieve valuable artifacts before the buildings are demolished, should such
be the future of the once-grand edifice. "It is with a heavy heart that I make
this proposal because it involves the dismantling of Alma College," Andrew Gunn,
president of the Alma College Foundation, told council.
The proposal from the foundation would be to negotiate an agreement that would allow them to retrieve any "significant materials and heritage features" before the building is demolished. Gunn said the foundation is also looking toward the possibility of establishing a university in St. Thomas. "It is a project which attempts to look back at the tremendous history of Alma College in St. Thomas, but at the same time, to look forward with great excitement to the establishment of a new university," Gunn said. So far, the Alma College Foundation has sent a letter to Alma Heritage Estates Corp. which tables suggested terms of an agreement.
Gunn noted the city has so far opposed issuing a request for a demolition permit
and that issue is tentatively the subject of an Ontario Municipal Board hearing
to begin in October. But both the city and Alma Heritage Estates Corp. have
stated their intention to work toward a negotiated settlement before the hearing
to avoid the expense of going to the OMB.
"It is is the belief of the Alma College Foundation that our proposal, the major points of which I have outlined here this evening, provides a good opportunity for both sides to resolve this matter," Gunn said. Gunn referred to Alma College as one of the rocks upon which St. Thomas is built. "We know for certain we are at home when we are near Alma College," Gunn said. Gunn said the prospect of having a university is an exciting one for St. Thomas which could deliver an economic impact. "The benefits to the community would extend to all involved in the arts in St. Thomas, in sports and recreation, business medicine and many others," Gunn said. "This is an opportunity to be seized."
Gunn said if the issue is not resolved, it might spur more questions at a planned information meeting on Alma College Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre. Mayor Cliff Barwick said after the meeting that the city would refer the proposal to legal counsel before commenting on it. He confirmed the city is working to try to reach an agreement that would avoid an OMB hearing over issuing a demolition permit for Alma College.