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) http://www.cca.qc.ca/en .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 http://www.harvestmoonsociety.org/stories/community-development/plum-coulee-community-revitalisation/ 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. http://www.hauserhall.com/.
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.