St. Thomas Municipal Heritage Committee partners with Fanshawe College faculties to highlight the economic potential of the city’s built heritage

Up to 160 students and faculty from the GIS, Urban Planning and Landscape Design programs at Fanshawe College will undertake an ambitious Design Charrette of the St. Thomas Talbot Street corridor, from the MCR Bridge in the west, to the CASO Station and Elgin County Railway Museum in the east.

The months-long undertaking launches during a special public meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 18, 7 pm at the St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre, 301 Talbot Street. During the meeting,titled Re-visioning Our Core Values, property owners, heritage supporters and other interested stakeholders will be joined by urban design students at the college to hear presentations by leading urban planners from the region.

A charrette is essentially a collaborative session in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem. In this case, the “design problem” is how best to preserve the city’s numerous built heritage assets with a view to enhancing the economic and community development of the downtown core.

There is wide spread belief that the city’s collection of built heritage, especially the Talbot Street business district, is a unique asset which needs to be protected and developed. Numerous buildings are threatened by under-use, lack of proper maintenance and lack of a clear vision for their future re-development.

The three guest speakers will outline successful instances where municipalities have protected and developed entire districts of heritage buildings and have reaped economic rewards as a result.

The St. Thomas Municipal Heritage Committee, made up of nine committed individuals appointed by city council, has been working on the preservation issue for the past several months. In its reports to council, the committee has highlighted the need to protect the most important heritage buildings from demolition, educate the public and property owners about the value of built heritage, and ultimately to put forward a plan to preserve several of the city’s largest heritage districts.

The Sept. 18 public meeting, along with the Fanshawe design charrette, isseen as the beginning of that process.

There is no cost to attend the public meeting. The meeting is open to all. In addition to the keynote speakers, the committee will describe the design charrette process and outline how members of the community can get involved.

For additional information, contact committee chair Serge Lavoie, slavoie@bell.net or at 519-859-7763.

FEATURED SPEAKERS AT THE SEPT. 18 PUBLIC MEETING

Sean Galloway is the Manager of Urban Design for the City of London. He has worked in various capacities for municipalities in Australia and Canada over the last 13 years. He was the lead municipal urban designer on the largest greenfields development area in North America and assisted municipalities with implementing the State Government of Victoria’s Melbourne 2030 Planning Strategy.

Sean holds a Bachelor’s of Environmental Studies in Planning from the University of Waterloo and Master’s Degree in Urban Development and Design from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He is a member of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, the Urban Land Institute,

Robert Voigt, is a registered professional planner, artist and writer, specializing in healthy community design, active transportation, community engagement, and organizational development. He authors CivicBlogger, is a the Chair of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute’s Community Design Working Group and member of their Planning Issues Strategy Group, and a member of PPS’ Placemaking Leadership Council.

David Wood, BLA OALA CSLA is General Manager and Senior Landscape Architect for EnvisionTatham Inc. with seventeen years of design and consulting experience gained in Ontario, Australia, and Newfoundland.

David’s professional interests are focused on public open space planning and place-making for both urban and green space environments. Practicing in Collingwood, Ontario for the past decade, David has developed a unique perspective of the community development and urban design challenges that smaller Ontario municipalities face. He finds great reward and inspiration working with the public and municipal leaders to identify, define and overcome these design challenges on a community appropriate scale. The successful completion of Collingwood’s Heritage District Revitalization and First St. Grand Boulevard, Gravenhurst’s Muksoka Road Streetscape Improvements, and the West Orillia Sports Complex are testaments to his commitment to creating quality public space.

St. Thomas: Re-Visioning our Core Values

A Design Charrette partnership between the St. Thomas Municipal Heritage Committee and Fanshawe College Urban Planning –Landscape Design faculties

THE PROJECT

Up to 160 students and faculty from the GIS, Urban Planning and Landscape Design programs at Fanshawe College will undertake a Design Charrette of the St. Thomas Talbot Street corridor, from the MCR bridge in the west, to the CASO Station and ECRM in the East.

A charrette is essentially a collaborative session in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem. In this case, the “design problem” is how best to preserve the city’s numerous built heritage assets with a view to enhancing the economic and community development of the downtown core.

BENEFITS OF THE PROJECT

From the student’s perspective, it’s an opportunity to apply their design and planning skills to a real-world challenge, accessing community-based resources in the process.

For St. Thomas, it will help educate and engage residents and property owners, and spark a debate around one or more visions of how the community’s built heritage can be preserved, re-purposed and integrated into community development and tourism development initiatives.

THE AREA AND ASSETS IN QUESTION
• MCR Bridge, future site of proposed St. Thomas Elevated Park
• Old Talbot Street, site of Jumbo statue, Old St. Thomas Church, and oldest developed part of St. Thomas under the original name Kettle Creek Village.
• Courthouse District, running south of Talbot to Prince Albert, between Margaret and Elgin.
• Wellington Block, site of Wellington Street School, now home to Algoma University.
• Talbot Street commercial district from William Street to CASO Station and ECRM.
• L&PS Corridor, from Kains to Wellington, including BX Tower and replica train station.
• CASO Station and Elgin County Railway Museum, lands and buildings.

THE PROCESS AND TIMETABLE

1. The initiative kicks off on Wednesday, Sept. 18 with a series of events designed to introduce Fanshawe students to St. Thomas and its heritage assets while outlining the charrette process to local residents and stakeholders.

a. Beginning at 11 am, up to 160 Fanshawe students and faculty will congregate at the CASO station for a working lunch and a series of presentations on St. Thomas and the charrette initiative.

b. Throughout the afternoon, students will tour the city by bus, receiving information from local “heritage interpreters” who have volunteered to help out.

c. Later that evening, beginning at 7 pm, up to 50 selected students will join members of the public, local property owners and other stakeholders, for a town hall meeting at the St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre. Three noted urban planners will give presentations on how communities across Ontario are using heritage preservation as a core strategic element of community and economic development.

2. The main part of the charrette will take place Feb. 14-21, 2014 in St. Thomas when the students, operating in teams of 12, return for an intense week of site study, consultation, mapping and design preparation. Final designs are judged by a combination of faculty and local experts. The committee plans to fundraise in order to make cash prizes available to the winning entries.

a. During that week, we anticipate using the design activity to generate local and regional media attention.

b. We would also anticipate making the presentations available for review at a public information centre.

A TRUE PARTNERSHIP

While initiated by the Municipal Heritage Committee, with the strong support of one of its members, Russell Schnurr, a faculty member at Fanshawe College, this project has already attracted the support of many community organizations.

• Downtown Development Board
• North American Railway Hall of Fame
• On Track St. Thomas
• St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre
• St. Thomas-Elgin Branch, Architectural Conservancy of Ontario
• St. Thomas EDC

Over the course of the project, we expect the participation of many more.

RESOURCES REQUIRED

The Municipal Heritage Committee will use its 2013 public education budget to launch the initiative, matching those funds with cash and in-kind contributions committed by the partners noted above.

In addition, the committee has identified a list of resources that will need to be put in place over the course of the project. We will be seeking assistance with all of them over the coming weeks. The intent is to engage as wide a group of individuals, organizations and stakeholders as possible.

The members of the Municipal Heritage Committee welcome the input, guidance and support of St. Thomas City Council and senior staff over the course of this exciting project

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