Imagine Chatham-Kent

Background

Last spring it was announced a group of local investors had purchased the Downtown Chatham Centre property.

On June 28, 2021 Municipal Council directed administration “to prepare a report regarding options for relocation or redevelopment of municipal assets including, but not limited to, the Civic Centre as part of the plans to redevelop the Downtown Chatham Centre property”. Shortly afterwards, administration issued a survey on behalf of the local investors group to solicit ideas from the public on how the DCC site can be developed for future use (Share Your Ideas-Downtown Chatham Centre).

Subsequent to this public engagement, the investors – collectively referred to as the Community Partners in the Imagine Chatham-Kent proposal - commissioned an architectural firm, at their cost, to prepare a preliminary design concept for the redevelopment of the DCC site. Although referred to as the Community Partners, no formal partnership has been entered into with the Municipality.

A video presentation of the Imagine Chatham-Kent preliminary design concept can be viewed below.

On June 13, 2022 Municipal Council directed administration to continue with a public engagement process to solicit feedback on the Imagine Chatham-Kent proposal in its presented form. Administration was also directed to begin a due diligence process to determine capital cost estimates of the Community Hub and Entertainment Complex, in conjunction with a review of the proposal’s scope and assumptions. Information will be reported back to Council at a later date.


Background

Last spring it was announced a group of local investors had purchased the Downtown Chatham Centre property.

On June 28, 2021 Municipal Council directed administration “to prepare a report regarding options for relocation or redevelopment of municipal assets including, but not limited to, the Civic Centre as part of the plans to redevelop the Downtown Chatham Centre property”. Shortly afterwards, administration issued a survey on behalf of the local investors group to solicit ideas from the public on how the DCC site can be developed for future use (Share Your Ideas-Downtown Chatham Centre).

Subsequent to this public engagement, the investors – collectively referred to as the Community Partners in the Imagine Chatham-Kent proposal - commissioned an architectural firm, at their cost, to prepare a preliminary design concept for the redevelopment of the DCC site. Although referred to as the Community Partners, no formal partnership has been entered into with the Municipality.

A video presentation of the Imagine Chatham-Kent preliminary design concept can be viewed below.

On June 13, 2022 Municipal Council directed administration to continue with a public engagement process to solicit feedback on the Imagine Chatham-Kent proposal in its presented form. Administration was also directed to begin a due diligence process to determine capital cost estimates of the Community Hub and Entertainment Complex, in conjunction with a review of the proposal’s scope and assumptions. Information will be reported back to Council at a later date.


Public Feedback

This area is available for members of the public to provide comment until 4pm on Friday, July 15, 2022. Please share your initial thoughts, concerns, or ideas regarding the Imagine Chatham-Kent proposal.

A Frequently Asked Questions area has been prepared on the right side of this screen (scroll down if on mobile). The FAQ will be updated should information be available to address questions posed on this forum. 

A summary of the Public Feedback will be provided to Council in a future report.

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

When we are looking at possible reduced services outside of Chatham and liquidating buildings to save under $200,000, it seems infathomable that this should be considered at this time. Wonderful concept but I don't think rubber-stamping it now is appropriate at all.

lyndaweese about 1 month ago

What is the big rush? Why does this huge project with its huge financial commitment need to be rushed through like this? We are undertaking this project when we cannot protect our local environment, and we cannot even plant a few trees.

Michael Cowtan about 1 month ago

Defer this decision until new council is in place. This is a long term, big investment for our community. Please look past your re-election 4 year cycle and make a good decision with time for the generations to come. What would your great great great grandchildren need (not want) from a facility like this? Make it sustainable and environmentally responsible and “free” for all!

Jaysoncampeau about 1 month ago

Thank you for the opportunity to share my feedback. I would also like to thank the "Community Partners" for their continued investment in Chatham-Kent and their leadership in improving downtown Chatham. They are to be commended for their interest and willingness to contribute.

It is because of the nature of their potential future investment and vision, that this proposal deserves more sustained and detailed discussion, planning and consultation. These Community Partners can leave a positive and long-lasting legacy through this investment, and rightfully so. So let's do it right.

Considering the scale of this proposal and the major impact it will have on taxpayers and multiple active (not "lifeless" - a ridiculous and offensive term used in the video to all of the stakeholders and users of these facilities), well-used, publicly-owned facilities, the lack of opportunity to provide meaningful feedback is concerning and disappointing. Proposals of this scale and budget (although we still don't have any financial numbers) should go through a proper consultation and review process. There has been very little detailed information provided to date about this proposal (like budgets, financial projections, future operating costs, staffing needs, parking studies, traffic studies, grant and funding opportunities, etc). 💰
Since the lack of detailed information about ICK prevents anyone from providing a detailed answer for or against the proposal - the only ethical and transparent way to proceed is to defer this vote until the new Council is in place. I have a extensive list of questions regarding the needs of the Thames Art Gallery and CK Museum, Kiwanis Theatre, art and education studios, box offices and public spaces, the Library and their needs and the pros and cons of moving the Civic Centre as well, originally an architectural gem that has suffered from neglect over the years but renovating and repairing is still a greener and (almost always) less expensive option than filling up a landfill. The Municipality's own staff presented an arena update report not long before the pandemic that clearly stated the arena usage needs in this community did not support current arena capacity, let along a 4000-seat facility.

But these are all details and questions that come later in the process - especially since there is virtually no information about them in the limited current materials available to the public. An online survey, a 10-minute video, and glossy architectural drawings are fine for a high-level introduction to a project. But when it involves hundreds of millions of dollars and multiple municipal, taxpayer owned-and operated buildings, much more information is required for Council, and the public to make an informed decision.

The optics of pushing a project of this scale and impact forward right now are quite frankly, terrible and raise all sorts of questions - and here’s why:
🚩 we are just weeks away from a municipal election. Council is not technically in a lame-duck position (yet), but pushing this forward now when clearly it will impact future Councils, is not appropriate. And it raises genuine questions about why it is being rushed through now.
🚩 proposals of this scale and financial impact on the taxpayer should be following proper public processes including RFPs, tenders, public consultations, design studies and reviews (and so much more), etc. 📝
🚩 summer (and understandably so) means low public engagement, which means low public interest and low public scrutiny. 🔍
🚩no one involved in this project can explain why the rush to push this forward, now. What is the rush? 🏃‍♀️
If this proposal is a worthy one (with such limited available information it is premature to say - but it could be amazing, it could be a disaster, it could be everything in between - we do not have enough information to know one way or the other) it should follow the proper process. And it should be able to wait a few more months until the new Council is in place. ⏰🏃‍♀️🚩
This process should be transparent and extensive. It should not be forced through over the course of a few weeks. And this Council should not be voting on it. Full stop. 🚩
We do more public consultation and due diligence for much smaller projects (just look at the Council agenda this week) with budgets that are hundreds of times lower. 💰
This project could be a game-changer for our communities (in every sense of the word). It’s time to slow this process down and do it right.
Here’s what you as Council can do, now:
✅ DEFER this project and any current future Closed or Open votes on it until the next Council is in place. 🗳
✅ If you as Council must force this through now, in the summer, with very limited consultation and an election weeks away, please explain in the minutes why this must be rushed through now.🚩🏃‍♀️⏰
✅ If you are a Councillor outside of Chatham, please ask questions about how this proposal will impact services in your communities. Do you believe that the arenas, libraries, municipal centres and help desks in your communities will not be affected? 💰
✅ If this vote does get forced through on August 8th, please consider holding a recorded vote on this item so it is in writing who supported this process and why . 📧
While this is a downtown Chatham project, it will impact every taxpayer in Chatham-Kent, for decades to come. ⏰ Which is why it’s even more important to do it right. And doing the right thing in this instance means DEFERRING this vote until the next Council term, and allowing for a clearly laid out, transparent process that we can all support. It will only make for an even better final product in the end. Thank you for your consideration.

ADSD about 1 month ago

It's great seeing local entrepreneurs put their money where their mouth is, and step up to help support their community. A lot of neysaying here say this is a bad idea or not possible but the sucess of these entrepreneurs says otherwise. Sometimes big risks means big rewards, we want to see a future for families and activities in our community. The DCC has made many mistakes and is really just abandoned at this point. If the owners would like to start over with that property that's an incredibly valid idea. We need to look to the future, and have proper space for commerical property to invest in Chatham, we need room for tech start ups and an education backing for them. It'd be great to have a large library learning center to invest in these things and I'm sure St. Clair College could have interest, they already have many programs that people could benefit from. With a larger library more community programs and family events could be implemented. The only thing I am not sure about with this is the entertainment factor. We desperately need to have more entertainment and family friendly activities in Chatham- Kent that are actually great activities however I am not sure about capacity of following through. The problem is that we have plenty of dead spaces around these types of things currently and not enough people hosting and having these events and getting involved currently. Having an OHL team requires a lot and the majority of them with the exception of the London Knights are actually profitable, many are running at a deficit or break even. It would be sad to see that enforced onto citizens taxes when arguably any of the entrepreneurs have much experience with what an OHL team would really entail. As far as getting entertainment here, the capital theatre is already struggling yes but that doesn't mean more can't be done. I think this is a great idea and concept in theory, and yes we need to do something of this nature and revitalize downtown, but what is the best course of action here? I would like to see other propositions especially in regards to truly feasible family entertainment. IAlso I think building that corner space by sears and making it taller and a pillar in the community would be fantastic. I'd actually love to see a vertically integration building for the library, long with commercial rental space.

Infinatefates about 1 month ago

What's the rush??? Please defer a decision on such a significant and potentially costly project until after a new council is in place and we have been provided with detailed plans and costing and an opportunity to provide meaningful feedback. The current DCC is a rather sad remnant of what was initially conceived, but there are too many unanswered questions surrounding this new grandiose proposal to be able to make an informed decision about where our future tax dollars would be going. How are all the entities named going to be accommodated in this space: library, city hall, 4,000 seat arena, museum, art gallery...really??? What is going to happen to the Kiwanis Theatre--is it just going to be abandoned? What happens to groups like Theatre Kent requiring a smaller venue than the Capitol Theatre which does not appear to be fully utilized now. Parking downtown is already inadequate when there is an event on at the Capitol. Studies have shown that the municipality needs a new arena, but a twin-pad arena that is part of a multi-use sports complex with good access to the 401 would be more beneficial and attract tournaments. Again, what's the rush...take time to make a carefully considered, informed decision on what is best for the entire municipality.

Heather Kingham about 1 month ago

I appreciate the soon-to- be Community Partners' efforts, but am disappointed with our Mayor, administration and councilors that this project appears to be a done deal. The time to ask for input was way before now. (Yes - the partners asked for suggestions...but citizens were not apprised of discussions that happened behind the scene, involving moving municipal services into the plan. THAT is a BIG discussion topic.)
YES the DDC needs a re-do! Moving services that are already downtown adds nothing new...use the space for a recreation and retail hub instead. If you MUST move our library, incorporate it in that hub...but use the current library building for additional space for a proper museum of local history and artifacts. Question - where will the fire hall go? Comment: There is no concrete plan to keep the Kiwanis Theatre, which is a gem with historical significance for our community. (along with great acoustics) The Mayor HOPES someone will make good use of it... which is not reassuring at all.
It is unfortunate that our last chance for input is today at 4 PM, especially when info on COSTS are not available until Aug 8 !
The video speaks for unity, and it is very well done. I think we have to all bear in mind that Chatham is not THE downtown for Chatham-Kent...all of our smaller towns have their own charming down towns. Every community can use a boost. We have to be VERY mindful that tax dollars spent must be spent fairly and wisely, with shared benefit, input and the support of most of the citizens. This project coming at the time closures of Municipal offices/services in every community but Chatham, Blenheim and Wallaceburg will not sit well with many outside of Chatham.

jane wright about 1 month ago

As amazing as the new development in downtown Chatham looks, I think it’s important to separate its private vs. public aspects. My comments are regarding a new municipal administrative office building, a new main library branch and a new arena. Decisions about the rest of the downtown development will be made by the group of investors who own the property.

No matter how many behind the scenes discussions have taken place between the municipality and the developers to come up with this proposal, it’s the thousands of Community Partners who are taxpayers and voters, who need to be heard and to have their concerns and questions answered thoroughly before any decisions are made.

I ask our mayor and council to get all the facts and to engage the communities of Chatham-Kent in meaningful discussion. Adding comments to this website is just feedback - one-sided communication. It is only one tactic in a complete public engagement strategy that should be as broad and inclusive as possible for such a large and expensive project, with such wide ranging implications.

Charlene Wranich about 1 month ago

Chatham is fortunate to have the Thames Art Gallery (TAG) and the cultural / community programming that goes along with it as part of a system of regional public galleries. TAG is currently an excellent gallery with exhibition spaces, studios and workshops, and it’s been a pivotal institution for me as an emerging artist and now in my mid career. Any move really needs to preserve and enhance the multifaceted nature of this place. Fostering public engagement in the arts is about more than attendance, it is about providing places and opportunities for people to participate, learn, share, and actually engage with cultural activities whether through exhibitions or learning a new skill in a studio class. It’s also crucial that these opportunities are accessible economically and open to diverse populations and ages. The trickle down economic benefits of healthy and active cultural institutions should not be overlooked, nor should their role in creating a healthy community of critical and creative thinkers be underestimated. Galleries like TAG are about far more than just a lovely space to see art; if this plan goes forth I urge the city to fully consult and make room for studios, workshops, and yes even storage to make TAG even better rather than limiting its potential.

Grahame Lynch about 1 month ago

Please don't put the library downtown at the mall site. Where it is right now there is easy handicap access( to the doors) for seniors and disabled. In the plans shown there is no handicapped parking even close to the doors of the site for the library. Leave the library where it is. This idea is just making it harder for people to access the library.

RuthM about 1 month ago

As a former two-term councillor, I would like to make the following statement.

The Downtown Chatham Centre rehabilation project is an intriguing "concept", but at this point, that is all it can be considered. It is most definitely not a plan, nor I hope is it a done deal, unless it is the product of secret backroom negotiations.

At this point, there are just way too many unanswered questions to take the idea seriously. For starters:

- we don't know how much this will adventure will cost taxpayers;
- we don't know lease versus ownership details, and which is more cost-effective in the long term;
- we don't know what, if any, impact or value this idea brings to communities beyond Chatham;
- we don't know what will become of the existing civic centre, cultural centre and library buildings; and what the sale of buildings and/or property will deliver to taxpayers to help offset the cost;
- we don't know what becomes of the downtown firehall;
- we don't know (and frankly think the idea is preposterous) how you fit a 4,000 seat arena, a city hall, a main library branch, a museum, an art gallery, a sports hall of fame, a climbing wall, a hotel, a memorial courtyard, and adequate parking on that particular property and do them all justice, especially when the library, art gallery and museum have been asking for years for more display and storage space, not less;.
- we don't know what provisions are being made for environmental controls and other necessary standards of care for the collections of the museum and art gallery, such that all third-party certifications and federal/provincial funding requirements are protected;
- we don't know if the community needs or can support a 4,000 seat arena, or what its programming potential would have on the Capitol Theatre and Kiwanis Theatre going forward;
- we don't know the fate of Erickson or Memorial Arenas and what their sale or decommissioning would return financially toward the bigger projects.

These are just a few of the nuanced issues that must be entertained, answered and communicated before a project this large can be considered further. As it stands right now, this appears to be an 'everything and the kitchen sink' half-baked proposal that is sweeping and overly ambitious.

I am all for public-private partnerships but never forget that the private side of the partnership is not doing things "simply out of the goodness of their hearts or their belief in the community", which is certainly how this project has been framed in local media and by our chief cheerleader. While I know and respect some of the investors involved, and they are successful and competent business people, there is always a profit motive, and taxpayers will be the largest customer of this investment.

More importantly, a "concept" of this significance, which will alter the face of Chatham's downtown and the operating landscape of our entire municipality permanently deserves robust consultation and engagement with the community and user groups.

This consultation must be considerably more than what an online questionnaire or discussion group can provide. This consultation must directly engage specific user groups, notably those serviced by the library and cultural centre. And, without question, any Council discussion, deliberation and decision must happen in open Council meetings held in person, not in the brutal inaccessible remote format that has already well overstayed its necessity.

And finally, something this large should not be rushed to be finalized prior to this fall's municipal election. Political expediency should not be the goal. Doing what's right and possible for the community and its citizens is of paramount importance, not any one politician's desire for legacy. This really is an election issue.

In other words, slow down.

Sincerely,
Art Stirling

ArtStirling about 1 month ago

Removed by moderator.

ArtStirling about 1 month ago

Removed by moderator.

T Coatsworth about 1 month ago

This bold plan to reimagine our downtown Chatham center deserves full attention. Because the Community Partners are held in such high regard, and rightly, for what they have already achieved on King St. there is a perceived rush to judgment – to accept the plan as it stands, as fast as possible and to begin building in the fall. Still, if ever there is a time to kick the tires and look under the hood it is now, before we sign on the dotted line. (1) 'What is the cost?' In dollars and cents? No one, publicly, has answered that. There are quotes for the refurbishment of existing (and soon to be redundant?) city properties that come to many tens of millions of dollars. But these may seem small change compared to the final tally of the proposed project, especially in these inflationary times. What is the cost to outlying communities should C-K bite of more than it can chew? What is the cost of losing the Cultural Center -- the Kiwanis theatre and the gallery and museum? It is a great cost, or loss, I say. (2) Everyone I've spoken to questions the need for a four thousand-seat arena. It is surplus to Chatham's immediate needs and by some estimates insufficient by OHA standards. There are seven hundred parking spaces onsite presently. Four thousand seats will need to double that. We must also consider the charm of a thing 'the right size' is not always the grandest size. The British parliament for example was designed purposely not to be able to hold all the members of parliament. This created a feeling of a full house. 'Standing room only' generates an enthusiasm a half or quarter-full house can only dream of. And what would be the savings between a two thousand plus seat arena and a four--thousand seat arena? And could those savings be better employed elsewhere -- to rehabilitate another existing arena for example?
(3) The proposed stores along King St. – so reminiscent of an earlier twentieth or nineteenth century Main St. model – will face the same pressures that diminished the originals: Big Box stores and online shopping have not gone away. This nostalgic Main St. vibe works in downtowns like Stratford or Niagara-on-the-Lake (or Disney World) because of festivals and larger populations and attractions. Is the community ready to become landlord and come into direct competition with our tax paying property holders? How do we handle that can of worms?

The new plan holds promise; it has generated enthusiasm. But this is an investment for a generation or two. And we must do our due diligence; get feedback from any of the advisory committees whose institutions are affected. Tweak and tweak again, kick the tires, look under the hood. Can all of this be accomplished by August 8th? No. While we have the power let's take the time to do this right.

T Coatsworth about 1 month ago

Of what benefit to the public is moving these facilities ? This is obviously just bailing out Real Estate speculators who made a foolish buy. Will Chatham never learn ?

edlaw about 1 month ago

I hope you do your homework. Having said that the consultant’s reports that have been done regarding the needs of the community for arenas have been removed from the website. Ask to see them. One was done for the sport complex idea during Mayor Gagne’s tenure. Had she been elected again it would have been built. All parties had agreed to fund the project. The Consultant’s report on that project emphasized the need for a twin pad arena complex. Any of the travel teams require twin pad complex’s for their tournaments. Currently MCK hosts none!!!

Then Mayor Hope arrives and wants an OHL team. Again we hire a consultant who indicates we are not large enough to support an arena of the size necessary to host an OHL team. Again they emphasize the need of a twin pad complex. Years later nothing done! Opportunities lost. This proposed concept will not solve the problem.

Regarding the Sears building which has been unused since 2016, the Library did try and rent it but the owner at the time wanted too much money for it. In the Library Masterplan it outlined the need for a larger library. Again the plan is not on the website. Nothing accomplished since it was written regarding enlarging the main branch of the Library.

The Sears space is not large enough to accommodate all entities listed in the report. Currently the Museum and art galleries do not have enough storage space to archive their collections. It has been an issue since the Museum was added to the CCC. They fudged the numbers for storage space when writing the grant application to make the addition of the museum doable but from the storage operations standpoint is has never worked.

Add the fact that the Milner house is in disrepair and could easily be used as a tourist information Center and house Ec Dev instead of renting space for that department. So sad to see it’s condition.

So ask admin to see all the reports that have been done on subjects that are in this proposal before you make any hasty decisions. It almost looks like a done deal which would lack the accountability necessary to spend such large amounts of money. Make sure that whatever happens with the arena meets the needs of the community not some entrepreneur. And I now have heard that one of the entrepreneurs owns an OHL team which he would like to bring to MCK using tax payers’ money! Having spent 11 years on Council I have seen these deals before.
Wake up Council! Do what’s best for the community not some moneyed group of people!!!!

Anne Gilbert about 1 month ago

Defer the decision to do anything with this project until new council is in place and complete plans and costs can be shown to the community with time for community input.Decisions for this project must fall in line with other community needs such as Ridgetown,Bothwell and other smaller communities not just Chatham.What about property tax increases WE PAY THE BILL.Traffic will be a serious problem.What happens to the Historic Designated Cultural Centre,Capitol Theatre Tecumseh Park.Possibly we as taxpayers should vote on it in the fall election

tansparent about 1 month ago

This project has not been well thought out. First of all we already tried to get a Junior A team here. That never happened. They should have built a twin pad arena at Thames Campus. That never happened. These so called investors think the idea of moving all these ideas downtown have a lot of pipe dreams.They are part of the investors for the former Navistar property that's still sitting vacant. The citizens of Chatham and surrounding areas can not afford to pay taxes on any empty buildings in Chatham. We have two arenas in town that need some repair work.Some of our roads are in need of repair. By the way council, what are you going to do with the extra 100,000.00 dollars that you get back from renaming these bridges. It's a joke. I will still call them the 3rd and 5th street bridges. Wake up council and concentrate on more serious issues.

Brian Maynard about 1 month ago

Congratulations to a committed team of investors for getting more conversations about ways to revitalize Chatham.
But this conversation does not Imagine Chatham KENT.
Like a great black hole, the concept for the DCC will suck the amenities from surrounding communities.

Here is a small example of how Chatham works. A generous Grant was received to build 10 pickle ball courts in CK. Consultations were done and it was proposed that five different communities (including Chatham) would each get two courts. (Erieau was not on the list because when their residents wanted pickle ball they raised money to build their own courts.) Four of the named communities were delighted to be on the list - but Chatham wanted at least six courts. Surely being given two "free" courts they could follow the Erieau example and raise funds themselves for additional courts. But that is not the Chatham mentality.
Now as Chatham contemplates bigger grander municipal offices, small personal-service municipal centres in surrounding communities are in danger of being closed. A sop of "a person on a desk in a library" is being offered as a possibility. No thank you.
Please make this trend of "everything in Chatham " an election issue. Let's Imagine Chatham-KENT in October.

Marlee Robinson about 1 month ago

We are fortunate in Chatham-Kent to have businesses and government collaborate to create exciting new opportunities for its citizens.
However, these anticipated developments do raise questions and concerns.
Specifically, it is unclear what will happen to the Kiwanis Theatre.
The Kiwanis Club of Chatham-Kent and the Chatham Kiwanis Music Festival have been associated with the Kiwanis Theatre for several decades.
It is a midsize multi use live performance space boasting excellent acoustics, a sloped floor, dressing room, lighting and comfortable seating. Thus, it has been attractive to not only the Chatham Kiwanis Music Festival's Grand Concerts, but also to many community groups including Theatre Kent and the Sears Drama Festival. The city's own website notes the Theatre is "also rented by a number of national and regional performers who represent professional entertainment".
The Capitol Theatre, while impressive, is simply too large and too expensive to be a realistic substitute.
Further, the Kiwanis Theatre holds cultural value and significance and is part ot the fabric which makes Chatham-Kent special.
We ask that Council provide more clarity on the future of the Kiwanis Theatre. We respectfully request to be part of that process to determine that the Kiwanis Theatre or a comparable facility be available in Chatham-Kent.
Sincerely,
Julie Collins
Co-Chair Chatham Kiwanis Music Festival
On behalf of The Kiwanis Club of Chatham-Kent

juliamc about 1 month ago
Page last updated: 09 Aug 2022, 01:23 PM