Community concerns over the loss of the convent? Cry me a river!

After reading about the concerns from citizens in the ‘’letters to the editor’’ section of the Review this past week, I am left wondering where all these concerned people were when the previous owner was fighting city hall to retrofit the building and give it a new purpose. An incredible amount of time and money and effort was deployed on her part in an attempt to turn the convent into a beautiful SPA that would not only have served the people in and around the community but would have enhanced tourism in the area. It was the perfect spot for it, the type of services it would have offered were in demand and a perfect fit given the building’s history as a peaceful and nurturing place for women. The project was also lead by a local young and smart businesswoman who was passionate about what she was creating, passionate about the history she was preserving and she was ready to invest in it!  She was met with more barriers and attitude than you can imagine. Now, I am no expert in the requirements of the building code but I know there are countless old buildings all over the country that have been repurposed which did not meet today’s building standards. No surprise there, since they were built over a century ago. But they are still up, and serve as restaurants, bars, beauty salons, etc. and yes, they are all subject to the fire code. Somehow, somewhere along the way, those municipal authorities put some effort into it and found a way to made it work.

And then later, when the possibility of repurposing it as a rehab centre, again, preserving the building’s historic character, the whole community was up at arms over it. How could they tolerate such a thing in their backyard? An institution that cares for those suffering from addiction and mental health issues has no place in our town! So the deal fell through and the owner was again left with this building she could do nothing with. The ‘’for sale’’ sign went up again.

The property has now been sold to a developer who will need to demolish the building (which apparently cannot serve any purpose whatsoever) in order to clear the land and begin a new project. No doubt he, too, will be the target of countless criticism for not doing enough to preserve the building and the heritage it represents.

Everyone wants healthy growth and prosperity in their community to heighten its vibrancy and reduce the tax burden on property owners but no one wants change and the risks that may go with it. This is counter intuitive to any entrepreneur, those on whom we rely to come up with great new ideas, establish new businesses, create new jobs and contribute to municipal tax revenues.

Yes, you have lost a landmark but what is even more tragic in my view is that the community has lost the interest and energy of a talented, ambitious, young entrepreneur who would have brought a new economic activity to our area while breathing new life into a beautiful old building. She took her creativity, her passion, her know-how and her investments elsewhere. So those who are pining and whining at the loss, perhaps you should have gotten behind the one who was prepared to save the convent at a time when she could have used your support.

Marie-Noëlle Lanthier

St-Bernardin, ON

Marie-Noelle Lanthier
St-Bernardin

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