Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cooper Site - Can it All Fit? By Sarah McIntosh & Robert Ritz

Another look at the potential uses for the Cooper Site by Robert Ritz and Sarah MacIntosh. Be sure to look at possible site maps on pages five and six.

I offer this for discussion, not as an endorsement though I do appreciate the concept proposed even if there are a few changes I might suggest.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

Stratford's Most Recent Official Plan Amendment

For those interested in the proposed Official Plan Amendment currently being reviewed by the Province, there is a link below. For those concerned about the Cooper Site, the discussion on its future uses begins on page 60.

Thought of the Day

Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burdens behind us. -- Samuel Smiles, writer

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Thought of the Day

I praise loudly. I blame softly.  -- Catherine the Great, empress of Russia

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Thought of the Day

It is not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance. -- Thomas Huxley, scientist

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thought of the Day

Be wary of liars. For, a liar can be your worst kind of thief. They can steal your hopes and dreams...”

― José N. Harris

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thought of the Day

Sadly, it's much easier to create a desert than a forest."-- James Lovelock, scientist

Beacon Article - Decision Delayed

I would appreciate your thoughts, particularly from those who heard the delegations Monday night.

Note, in my time at City Council, I have not heard a delegation advocating for demolition, just staff and Council. How does one give credence to a supposed silent majority? I've heard from many who want progress and when they hear the ideas coming forward from local experts, they see the potential.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Another option for the retention of 75000 square feet - Michael Wilson

Another option for the retention of 75000 square feet from Michael Wilson.

Input from Loreena McKennitt on Adaptive Reuse

Hello Kerry.
Thank you for reaching out although I am not sure how much assistance I will be able to give you. Here we go anyway.
The subject of heritage architecture has long been of keen interest to me although I haven’t been as actively involved as I once was in the 80’s.I have had to pick my “battles” and have not been paying intimate attention to the Cooper situation but am aware of developments last week. I worry that things are proposed without the due diligence being done and often due diligence costs money and takes time.
I am not sure how much time is left to undertake what kind of research,  but there is an excellent place in Montreal  called the Centre for Architecture which was started by Phyllis Lambert ( Bronfman family) .Montreal, for example, has all kinds of examples of adaptive reuse and the centre, in theory, should be able to give you examples of those. Sometimes they are just a facade... sometimes more. Each situation is different. I also think of the Seagram’s building in Kitchener. Likely Phyllis’ family was involved in that as well.
The scale of the Cooper site makes it tricky as well as it presently isn’t very photogenic. It is hard to get a large body of people to rally around a building which appears to have so little going for it. And also a population which has not known its’ history very well. At the same, time, I believe in the right hands, it could have very meaningful potential in the community and which would retain one more heritage footprint of where we have come from.
Psychologically, I think this is very important for a population . When I have visited places where this footprint has been completely or largely taken away for one reason or another
( war or bad planning), it becomes a rootless and undistinguishing  monotonous location just like many others around the world. This only becomes worse when the same box stores populate these areas. ( Gap, Foot Locker etc) One doesn’t know ( or care) whether they are in Dresdon, London or Plum Coulee, Manitoba and in my opinion there is not a compelling reason to return or stay for any length of time, which is of course what every business and town/city wants ..... People returning there and spending time and money there.
Actually, the village of Plum Coulee, Manitoba was assisted by Phyllis Lambert ( nee Bronfman ( above) whose mother Saidye, was born there) when she rescued an old vintage grain elevator. The little village, like many Manitoba towns I see, are in a process of revitalising  and are part of a Harvest Moon Society movement to recapture the composition of life which was once on a more human scale than the way towns /cities have evolved now. Then, there  is Jane Jacobs who lived in Toronto and was, in my view. a force for healthy diversity and urban design. Not sure what organisation might have sprung up in Toronto during her tenure, but she was an excellent guiding force for human urban design . One more interesting contemporary person of course is Charles Montgomery who recently published a book called Happy Cities. I also think of the Hauser family who rejuvenated a church in Heidelberg called Hauser Hall.
With respect to the Cooper site, and not having been involved or privy to what has been ruled in or out by whom, it would be difficult for me to comment further. One of the most important things is to work with people who really know their stuff and can bring in the experts to do structural studies and then model out and budget out any vision.
I hope this helps.
Thanks again for the work you do for the community.
Warm regards,

Top Points Against Demolition - Robert Ritz

Here is a letter presented by Architect, Robert Ritz on April 30th to Planning & Heritage

Stratford Railway Shops                    
April 30, 2015 
Top Points to Not Commission Full Demolition

Before Council decides to commission partial or full demolition the following points have to be addressed and  questions have to be answered. The focus should not be to tear it down but to make the site and building safe,  usable and attractive at the lowest cost for the taxpayer and any future purchaser. 

Why should the building not be totally demolished – because of the cost!! 
1. Free enterprise demolishes buildings to reduce property taxes. This reason does not apply to this  property. 
2. What are the taxpayers’ costs to date for this property? 
3.Does the purchaser pay the cost of full or partial demolition on top of what the City’s costs to date are  for property? 
4. What is the cost to demolish? 
5. Designated Substances affect the cost of repair or demolition. Was a Designated Substance Report  prepared and considered in the cost to repair or demolish?  
6.Explain how or if the taxpayer will ever recover the costs the City has invested in this property since it  was purchased. 
7.If the developer can work with a partially demolished building to create a unique development then  why would they pay the additional cost for full demolition?  
8.Developers who do not like what has not been demolished can, at their cost, demolish the rest and not  at the taxpayers’ cost. 
9.Why would the taxpayer cover the cost of full demolition when partial demolition and repair solve the  safety and access issues? 
10.Maintaining a few bays intact implies development of these bays to make them water tight, insulated  and conditioned for an unknown use plus the annual cost to operate it. Does the taxpayer know what  this cost is?

Determine what components require repair to make the building and site safe, usable and attractive.  1. Roof asphalt membrane 
2. Roof deck 
3. Roof steel structure 
4. Steel columns supporting roof structure 
5. Concrete walls supporting roof structure 
6. Annex brick cladding 
7. Concrete floor   
Determine the itemized cost to demolish or repair components that require repair and maintenance to make  the building and site safe, usable and attractive. 
1. Roof asphalt membrane – demolish since it has to be removed to be repaired 
2. Roof deck – demolish since it has to be removed to be repaired 
3.Roof steel structure – it can be cleaned and protected with Galvafroid coating but with scrap value it  may be more economical to demolish with some sections remaining to indicate profile of roof
4.Steel columns supporting roof structure – it can be cleaned and protected with Galvafroid coating but if  the roof is removed they serve no function except to support the sections of the  remaining roof  structure to indicate profile of roof
5.Concrete walls supporting roof structure – This portion of the building has great heritage value and the  reinforced concrete embedded into steel columns is difficult and expensive to demolish with minimal  scrap value. Demolition would be more expensive than the cost to, retain and clean the concrete and  steel, cap the top of the concrete with roofing membrane to make water tight and protect steel with  Galvafroid coating.
6.Annex – This portion of the building has less heritage value than the original concrete wall portion. The  steel structure supporting this brick faced addition consists of structural steel sections that have great  reclaimed steel value. Because of the value of the steel and the fact that brick is simpler to demolish  than concrete, it is be more economical to demolish this entire structure than to retain it. 
7. Concrete floor – has various thickness and has reinforcement around the rails to support the  locomotives and other uses of the building have added deep footings to support equipment.  Demolition would be more expensive than the cost to, retain and clean the concrete.  8. Concrete foundations – are very deep in the west end of the building. Removal would more expensive  than the cost to retain and cap with concrete.
  Conclusion – Save the taxpayers’ money. Only demolish components that are more expensive to repair and  maintain to make the building and site safe, usable and attractive. Spending any more would not be good  stewardship of the taxpayers’ dollar. 

ROBERT RITZ, B. Arch., O.A.A., M.A.A.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Why use a hammer when a feather would do?

I am thankful for all the input over the past few weeks as Council looks at addressing the order from the Chief Building Official. I would appreciate if you would share this with your friends and family and encourage them to email me with their feedback.

Please share.
Why does the decision around the Cooper Site matter?

Over 5 acres of land are inside the building. Why vote on demolition before meeting with CN for clarification on potential land uses?

Where's the money?
There is no budget line in the 2015 to pay for demolition so where will the money come from? Will another project be taken off the table? Which one? How many projects will be delayed to complete this undertaking in the proposed timeline?

What's the cost?How can Council entertain this motion without numbers? Do the math and then let Council weigh its options. Committing to demolition without the facts will require a motion to reconsider that must receive 2/3 of Council's support. Address the loose roofing material, secure the site, stage the property but let the building stand until the questions (some listed in the motion posted below) have been answered.

Why use a hammer when a feather will do? The Chief Building Officer's order doesn't speak of demolition. Why not follow it and remove loose roofing materials and secure the site? Then let's work together to "stage the property" - clean up the exterior, exchange some of the hoarding with glass to allow for those visiting the site to have a window into the building to imagine what its next chapter may be.

Many thanks to Simon Brothers for this video created last Saturday on a tour with Dean Robinson.

Cooper Site 11th Hour Tour with Dean Robinson by Simon Brothers

Here is the motion being considered at Monday May 11th's Council Meeting in Council Chambers, all are welcome.

9.3 Report of the Committee of the Whole Open Session: 

Your Committee recommends: 

9.3.1 Cooper Building Proposed Action: 

1. Retain 75,000 Square Feet of the building (green) with west wall, steel, and date stone;

2. Remove only loose roof material from balance of building for health and safety;

3. Because Heritage Stratford did not include the Annex (yellow) in reasons for designation, the Annex is to be demolished in the  future because it has no heritage value;

4. We will contact the railway to discuss permitted uses on the site and the 30 meter setback; 

5. Council will review the costing of available options and public uses as discussed at subcommittee on 30 April;

6. Commercial relator to market remaining 75,000 square feet as adaptive re-use to prospective developers until 30 September;

7. Remove cladding, loose material from building, and all outside buildings (blue);

8. Fencing issue to be decided by the Chief Building Official as per the Unsafe Order. 

Respectfully submitted by Mayor Mathieson, Chair. 

Motion by That the Report of the Committee of the Whole Open Session dated May 11, 2015 be adopted as printed.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

a letter from Dean Robinson

Dean Robinson has asked me to share his letter to Council. He also mentioned if there are groups of 10-12 interested in a walking tour of the Cooper Site, he is willing to serve as a tour guide. You can email me at and I will make an introduction, if you're interested.

Dean's letter:

In reflecting upon the Cooper site compromise that was visited upon most of us on Monday, I think there are some questions that need to be answered.

Does the demolition of the building need to stretch so far to the east?
I think we’ve been told it does, because the fire-damaged roof stretches that far to the east.
If it is the damaged roof that is of concern, why not take down just the damaged roof?
Why does a good chunk of the north wall (the west end of the north wall) need to come down with it?
As well, if you take down the west end of the north wall, you start cutting into the mezzanine (the balcony). And if you start cutting into the mezzanine, does that impact upon the integrity that mezzanine, which stretches all the way to the east end of the machine shop (the east end of the building).
To my knowledge, there is nothing wrong with the mezzanine, apart from its decking. I’ve been allowed on the mezzanine by the city’s former chief building official Dave Carroll.
Its decking is not perfect, but I would not describe it as unsafe. Nor would I say the decking reflects the strength of the mezzanine.
It is not easily accessible now because the staircases to reach it have been removed. I was told by Carroll they were removed for security reasons.
In any event, I don’t understand why sections of the wall and mezzanine need to be taken down because there is a “roof problem.” If the westerly end of the south wall can remain without a roof (as the current demo plan is calling for), why can’t the westerly end of the north wall and its attendant mezzanine remain without a roof?
Are there engineer reports that say the westerly end of the north wall and the mezzanine must come down?
As I said, there remain some questions to be answered.
I look forward to hearing those answers.
Dean Robinson 

Engineered Demolition

Robert Ritz asked me to share this.

The Rail Shops have been an eyesore for many years. The cost to demolish any portion of the rail shops is not part of this year’s City budget. If funds permit, Council has the genuine intent to give taxpayers what they want.
As a compromise between repairing damaged structure or full demolition, last Monday Council endorsed a motion to demolish the portion of the structure with fire-damaged roof and retain a sizable portion at the building’s east end and the west wall with the 1907 date stone – a key heritage feature. Further demolition of the building, at taxpayer’s cost, may also occur if a development for the site is not received by Council by September 30 of this year.
If the damaged portion of the building is limited to the roof deck and membrane, why spend taxpayers’ dollars to demolish the steel roof structure and walls which appear to be structurally sound? Council also has a concern involving the demolition of the annex, if the walls are torn down, then future developers may not be able to build that close to the tracks. If this is the case, then all the walls on the south side of the structure should stay up for the same reason. 
Since the Council meeting on Monday, I have had the opportunity to talk with some of the residents living south of St. David Street and they all had the same opinion, "It does not need to be torn down, just cleaned up". By opening the building up to the public, the site lines and new access to the university campus and Downtown will transform this neighbourhood and the site.
Council could resolve this issue at low cost to save taxpayer’s dollars by requesting a proposal for “Engineered Demolition”. This is where demolition contractors bid to retain an engineer to review the damage and tender a price to demolish the least amount of structure. The “Engineered Demolition” could entail three parts. One, ensuring the building meets the criteria to satisfy the unsafe order, confirmed by the engineer. Two, remove the steel cladding, clean the remaining concrete and steel structure and repair the damaged concrete as directed by the engineer to avoid future water damage. Last, if funding can be arranged, remove the hoarding and concrete block that infill the windows and provide access through the first floor windows so taxpayer’s can finally see and walk through the structure they have so much invested in.
If the cladding is removed the long bays of the structure are open to Downie Street where a sculpture of scrap steel could be hung to replicate the image of Locomotive 6218 for passersby to see. By floodlighting the pilasters and this work of art the structure becomes an attraction we can all be proud of versus the eyesore we all despise.
Let Council know your choice, make it safe, clean it up or make it accessible until developed by others.
Robert Ritz, Architect

Participatory Democracy

Feeling blessed to live in a community beloved by both its residents and guests. So grateful for all who have made time to share their insight and expertise as I ponder how best to address my concerns on the future of the Cooper Site this Monday. Architects, lawyers, engineers, contractors, realtors, professors, authors, historians, bankers, Stratfordites & guests of the Festival City of diverse expertise- I couldn't do what I do on Council without the generosity of many who work to inform my positions with their knowledge and understanding of issues involved.
Now to do my best to synthesize the data into a manageable form for Monday night.