Presentation to Council (May 11, 2015)

The Future of the Stratford Railway Shops  

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.  

The decisions being made about the Stratford Rail Shops building should not be about what it is, but what it could be.  

I have had the opportunity to speak with some people who were of the opinion that the eyesore should be torn down, but after explaining to them that retaining the significant portions of structure and cleaning it up would actually save more of the taxpayers' money, they were quick to change their opinion.  

The significant structural portion of the Rail Shops building is the concrete walls. The concrete is the most expensive part of the building to be demolished, so why demolish it when leaving the walls standing could create a wonderful space for telling the story of a key heritage feature of Stratford. By leaving the walls of the building up, we could turn this eyesore into the coliseum or Parthenon of Stratford.  

During its construction, the walls were one of the first parts to go up, implying they can stand on their own and maybe they should.

There are lots of examples of elsewhere in the world, where the walls of old structures were left standing and the spaces around them turned into community hubs or were re-used by developers.

This building has national scale. Why would we want to demolish something that has so much potential? Every development proposal that has been put forth for this site, has taken the opportunity to re-use the existing structure, which is what makes this site and its proposals unique. This is the case because it is more economical to keep the building up then to spend money on demolition and build new. At most, we should only be removing the unsafe portions of the building, to make it a usable and attractive feature of Stratford.

Currently, Cornwall is demolishing a bridge, but leaving part of it standing. And what part is that? The concrete structure supporting it. Cornwall was famous for its cotton mills, some of which have been saved, others demolished. You can see that where they have been demolished, all that's left are vacant rubble sites, whereas the ones that were saved, have been redeveloped. Developers have been able to keep the old walls and have even added new ones where needed. Another building has used the old wall as a frame in front of the new building.

So what does this mean for the Stratford Rail Shops? We know it's expensive and costs taxpayers money to remove what we don't need to. Tonight a member of council could amend the current motion and resolve this issue by requesting a proposal to demolish the least amount of structure required to satisfy the unsafe order.  

However, if more demolition is required, we strongly urge that the walls remain. The Rail Shops structure can be opened up, allowing for sight lines and pedestrian connections to the new university campus and Downtown. At night, the columns can be illuminated and a sculpture of scrap steel could be hung to replicate the image of Locomotive 6218, the last of the steam giants to be refurbished in Stratford, creating an attraction we can all be proud of versus the eyesore we all despise.

The issue here is fire damage, not full demolition. If we are going to do more than just what's required to deem the building safe, let’s at least keep the walls up because with them, you save tax dollars and have the opportunity to tell the great story of Stratford for generations to come.  

Thank you.

Sarah McIntosh, R. Ritz Architect