Report opens door to possible reuse of Cooper site...
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May 23, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Report opens door to possible reuse of Cooper site building

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert

A new report on the Cooper site being recommended by the city's Finance and Labour Relations subcommittee would keep the door open to the possibility of an adaptive reuse of the former CNR shops.

At the request of CAO Ron Shaw, subcommittee earlier this week passed a motion asking council for staff to consider and report back on possible public uses for the site. The next step would be to obtain costings for a full or partial reuse of the building compared to a new development.

Heritage conservation advocate Thor Dingman called the recommendation "a step in the right direction," and said he was hopeful the staff report includes capital costs as well as possible revenue sources for the site.

Dingman and several others, including the Grand Trunk Heritage Site committee, a group within the Stratford Perth Heritage Foundation that would like to see three bays preserved to display a steam locomotive, have proposed solar panels for the roof of the old locomotive shops. At a presentation to council in February, Dingman said panels could generate $90,000 a year for the city. Local architect Michael Wilson, meanwhile, hosted a well-attended presentation last month where he too provided several design possibilities within parts or all of the existing structure. Though not his first choice, he showed how a parking garage could fit well with the space.

As part of the recommended report, Shaw said staff would consider the different proposals presented by the public.

The report was given a $10,000 budget, though Shaw suggested little or no money would be required unless staff require outside assistance.

Up until now there has been no decision made with regard to the site or building. Cost continues to be the biggest question mark. According to Shaw, the price to tear down the building was estimated at $1.2 million in 2012, and it would take $9.7 million to bring the building up to a minimum occupancy standard.

The last time the Cooper site debate was before council the matter was deferred until after a master plan for city facilities has been completed. Shaw said earlier this week the report should be ready by September. He noted determining what developments ultimately go on the site is "a fairly big piece of the puzzle" in determining future development of city-owned land.

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