Sarnia Historical Society Board Member Says Save SCITS
Megan Reale wants to take steps now so Sarnia is not left without a plan to preserve the former SCITS building.
A board member of the Sarnia Historical Society, she believes in the importance of preserving local history and cultural heritage.
“I got involved in the Save SCITS committee because it’s an important historical heritage site in our City.” The bridge between the downtown and Mitton Village, it’s at the heart of our downtown core. “It should be preserved. There are so many buildings we’ve lost through this mentality of ‘this is old, knock it down,’ only to look back and ask ourselves why we did that. We’re fortunate in the sense that we can work towards preserving this building for future generations.”
Set to be deemed surplus land in 2019, it is firstly offered to federal, provincial, county, and then local entities including school boards. Sarnia has to follow the hierarchy and wait our turn. “In terms of ownership, its not the only route to maintain the building. There’s a number of municipalities who have historic schools and buildings deemed surplus and they’ve gone on to lease the space at a low cost of $1/ year.”
Reale believes it should stay in the hands of the City and be used by the City, with a focus on community needs.
City Hall, City Works, a bus depot and other City services could all be found in the same location. There are also opportunities to make money, says Reale, like bringing in a museum, using the pool (especially with the closing of Jackson), and local and travelling theatre groups performing shows in the auditorium. But that’s not all.
“There are resources right in the building. Vocational and trade labs, a gymnasium and wrestling rooms…all of these things can be leased out to groups. Gym space is always hard to find in the winter time, so it’s a great asset to have to be able to lease out to the community. In addition, there are rooms that you can rent out to teach classes or hold meetings and conferences. The whole campus itself is 180,000 square feet, over five times the size of the current City Hall.”
The main push now, says Reale, is getting the conversation started so that when the school board deems this surplus, there is a plan in motion. “We don’t want to end up with a boarded up, fenced off school like Devine, or vandalism like what happened with the hospital. We need to get this in motion.”
The Historical Society is advocating for heritage status to preserve the original look. Reale wants to remind people this does not mean you can’t do anything to the building. “You can change the inner working and design. It’s only the original façade, the original outer look, and the auditorium that would be preserved under the status.”
Built in 1921, the original investment was $500,000. “We should maintain this investment rather than crumbling it down to the ground and starting again. We could not only save money, but we could convert it into a money maker for the city. We want ideas, input, opinion; we are open for the debate. This is about your dollars and cents and we want to know how your community can be best served.” For more information or to get involved: [email protected]