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Published on Thursday, June 22, 2017

New life planned for old post office downtown

Council considering use for marketing and construction offices, innovation space

New life planned for old post office downtown
Old post office abandoned by Canada Post
To attract more people downtown and to foster innovation, while downtown reconstruction is occurring, the Town of Oakville wants to put the former post office to good use.

The building at 193 Church St. has two proposed uses – a marketing and construction office during the Lakeshore Road Streetscape Project (2019-2020) and an innovative space for industry and community partners, such as Sheridan College.

The latter would use space on the building’s first floor.

The proposed temporary uses of the building would be for five years, beginning in 2018, as the Town has earmarked the property for eventual redevelopment in the future Downtown Cultural Hub.

In 2012, the Town purchased the post office site from Canada Post for $11 million.

In 2015, as one of the options presented for the Downtown Cultural Hub, the Oakville Public Library and Oakville Galleries, at Lakeshore Road and Navy Street, would move to the former post office on Church Street as a full gallery and digital library.

In November 2016, Town admitted there were funding roadblocks in the form of federal and provincial infrastructure funding programs not supporting the high level of financing required to execute the plan, and as a result, it headed back to review its downtown plan.

Town council will continue to seek public feedback in 2017.

A May 30 Economic Development report, which got the thumbs-up from the Administrative Services Committee Monday, June 19, will seek Council’s approval Monday, June 26, for the marketing and construction offices plan — and to $400,000 from the 2019 Lakeshore reconstruction/streetscape project to fund the set up of the offices, and have discussions continue with potential users of the proposed innovation space.

The latter use would aligns with the Town’s Economic Development Strategy.

The committee heard a presentation on the proposal Monday from Dorothy St. George, director of economic development.

“Together, the construction office and the marketing office will really utilize an existing Town asset and be able to get us through the construction period,” said St. George.

“It’s not only cultivating a space for innovation in the community, it’s a mitigation measure in itself. It’s bringing people down into that building, particularly during that reconstruction period.”

St. George noted Town staff has held several meetings, as well as a workshop, with Sheridan College and other industry and community stakeholders, to explore the potential use of the building.

Groups have expressed interest for the creation of a place for collaboration, mentoring, learning, training, and developing new ideas, based on a foundation of innovative technologies.

“The work that would be required to bring that building into use will allow us to open up the rest of the building, as well. What’s proposed is to utilize it for technology-based and innovation space,” said St. George.

Besides Sheridan, potential partners with interest in using the innovation space include Silicon Halton, Haltech, FIRST Robotics and various local companies.

“The commitment we will be seeking and the direction we are seeking from this report is to have further discussions with those groups and to develop the financial models, so this makes sense,” said St. George.

“What we’re looking to recover are those incremental costs that we incur, such as heating and lighting.”

Phase 1 of the renovation would create the marketing office, which is the area that will be accessed by the public for information about the Lakeshore Road Streetscape project.

It would be located at the front of the building where the public previously accessed postal services.

Targeted for completion by Nov. 1, Phase 1 renovations would include enhancements to the public access ramp, installation of signage and security access to the building.

Phase 2 will update the existing office space for construction and create a meeting room at the front of the building for construction and marketing staff, update the washrooms for accessibility, install air conditioning units in the front offices and install a kitchenette for staff use.

The first floor of the building will be painted and the floor epoxied, which will set the stage for interim use as an innovation space.

Phase 2 work is targeted for completion by the second quarter in 2018.

The next phase will be the creation of the innovation space, providing a collaborative environment to support the growth of key industry sectors including digital media and animation, advanced manufacturing, and professional services.

St. George was asked about funding possibilities from the Province, and the Town will look into it, she said, but noted it would be difficult to get an investment since the space won’t be utilized for more than five years.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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