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.

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I was born and raised in Chatham, and after 8 years away, I’ve moved back to start a family. I’ve always been optimistic about the future of the town, and it feels so good to have things to look forward to. When city friends ask why I’ve moved back, it’s great to have projects like this to point to. It finally feels like Chatham is on the cusp of really great things. I am extremely optimistic about this project.

I am most excited about:
- a modern central library
- tying in historical architecture to maximize small town charm while providing urban amenities
- roller skating!!! I can’t understate how much I want a space for roller skating
- climbing walls, hopefully appropriate for adult climbing enthusiasts

Room for improvement:
- if we want to maximize parking, there also needs to be alternative transportation options so that people who don’t have to come by car choose not to. There should be, at minimum, plenty of bike racks worked into the design. It would also be great to work with the city on bike lanes downtown, so that families can safely travel to community spaces while enjoying outdoor spaces together and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Like most urban centres, Chatham should have community bikes for rental in the downtown. This would also help address drinking and driving in the city.
- the roof in the current design is a waste of space and missed opportunity. I’d LOVE to see a rooftop terrace with a community garden. Studies show that green roofs reduce heat at the street level and provide efficient insulation for buildings. It would be beautiful to enjoy a rooftop view of downtown Chatham in a green space. This space would be amazing for photo opportunities and maybe weddings. It could even be an urban agriculture opportunity where food could be grown for the food bank, or rented by community members who don’t have a plot for a veggie garden. I could also see a cafe or restaurant or bar on the rooftop, like you would see in big cities. More ambitious still, it’d be incredible to also have a community pool on the roof, like some hotels have. Something like that would be truly innovative for a community hub.
- the green space looks sparse and I’m concerned about pavement heat. I’d like to see more trees to help recover our Carolinian canopy coverage, and flower beds with native plants. People will want to spend more time in spaces that are cool, well-shaded and aesthetically pleasing.
- I see benches but I think there should also be bistro tables to encourage meeting with people in the community or sitting with a coffee and a library book
- would be really excited about sustainable design, like rainwater collection and large solar panels
- streetlights should be selected to minimize light pollution to preserve Chatham’s starry skies
- phase 3 should absolutely be residential and not more hotel space. There isn’t enough downtown housing (or housing in general) and any successful downtown needs people living there.
- there should be drinking fountains for people to fill their water bottles
- there should be street access to public washrooms so that children and people with disabilities especially can fully enjoy downtown and festivals without the panic of not being able to find a washroom. The washrooms should be open late at night to prevent people from the bars from relieving themselves in the streets.
- one of the storefronts should be a small grocery store with local goods and fresh produce so that people downtown have food within walking distance
- the cultural centre needs bigger studios with more large basin sinks and shelving, and lots of natural light
- I’m concerned about the fate of the Kiwanis theatre if everything else is moved. I think it’s an essential community resource for smaller productions.

Maylee 5 months ago

I am optimistic that this bold project may well work in such experienced and committed hands as those who have bought the DCC and wish to transform our downtown but I have a couple of concerns. The first applies to the increase in size of the proposed library which is 30,000 square feet from the current 22,960 square feet which is a modest gain of 7,040 square feet. When I was one of a number of former staff members who offered this suggestion, our idea was a much greater expansion that would allow dedicated study and quiet areas which don't exist in the present library along with a larger programming space that is not competing with other services. I would also like to see a larger local history area that would allow the Ontario Genealogical Society space and the local history area to be kept in close proximity with more room for tables and appropriate equipment on offer. While many people may feel that these areas are large enough, there is great usage by individuals wishing to access family records and the local history index of births, deaths and marriages as compiled from the Chatham Daily News from 1841 on is a valuable and unique resource that doesn't exist anywhere else. The collection needs to be digitized as do the newspaper files but there needs to be a space allocated for this work to be done. The Children's area needs a larger programming space that can be used for Adult programs as well. It is currently cramped and uninviting. Staff areas have also been crowded of late and this is one area that should not be neglected as trained, individual help for C-K residents is most important. The Sears store was 72,000 square feet. The library's new recommended footprint is 30,000 square feet. Will the other activities be adequately accommodated? I can't picture the Library, Art Gallery and Museum all being located there with proper storage allowed for every one of these activities. I agree with the comments from the County Lady about the Chatham Cultural Centre as well. What is its fate? The community needs a theatre of this size for local productions that would be lost at the Capitol Theatre. It was once a vibrant place with many acts from all over the country on offer at a reasonable price. Finally, one of the features that attracts people to the downtown is an English style pub that is family friendly offering games of darts, quiz nights and local entertainment. Is there any provision for an attraction like this in the revised King St cityscape? As an organizer of local events, I would love to see a place like this locally owned not a chain that could partner with some of our activities in the downtown.

Stardust66 5 months ago

seriuosly, going to bail out these guys for buying a dud, how the hell are you going to get in and out of the downtown when there is an event on at the Event center. Where are you going to park, parking garage not adquate, ANOTHER CAPITOL THEATER

Stracan 5 months ago

This is 100% on the mark and checks all the boxes. A place to entertain and be entertained. Every age group, male and female, all income levels while giving a sense of pride and excitement. Name one other project that accomplishes everything that the Mayor and Council have been wanting to do for over 10 years. There are always other projects and always will be so it’s time to move forward on this one and say we have the courage to grow and be recognized. This is such a positive game changer.

GrowCK 5 months ago

There are no better partners for downtown redevelopment than these local, civic-minded people with a record of success, sensitive to heritage. Kudos to them for investing thought, time and money on a proposal to replace a model of failure in downtown Chatham’s mall. Let us not repeat the mistake of rushing to embrace whatever new proposal is presented, that lost us valuable heritage a generation ago, and landed CK with the mall in the first place. Consider starting questions before settling on yes, no, or yes-with-adjustments.

What is the primary goal of the ice surface: entertainment for an audience, or nurturing local athletes? Is the emphasis for-profit, or for community enrichment of developing figure skaters and hockey players? OHL appears unlikely for CK’s population and proximity to other teams. Twin pad design appears to be preferable for community use, such as tournaments and competitions. Leamington, a smaller centre, features a twin pad facility.

(Transparency here: perspective from the one-third of CK residents who do not use arenas.)

Who is the landlord responsible for new storefronts? Whose burden would vacancies be?

What will the Municipality do to strengthen storefront success? Approve mixed-use zoning to develop housing for upper storeys of storefronts to increase the walking population? Tighten up developments on the edges of the city so that big boxes are required to fill a downtown storefront if they build a big box?

What are the space needs for the Civic Centre using a contemporary lens? Work models have changed for office workers. Municipal employees have learned to work remotely during the pandemic, and the expectation of full-time office occupation during work hours is outdated.

What is the square-footage comparison for current and proposed library, museum and gallery spaces? What are the demands for future library floor space under the ongoing requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and how do they fit into the proposed space? Museums and galleries require large areas for storage of their collections not currently on display. How are they accommodated? Curation requires specific temperature and humidity levels for conservation of materials. Lighting for displays is exacting and costly. Are these requirements factored into the proposal? They must be met to maintain eligibility for funding from higher levels of government.

The Kiwanis Theatre. It is absent from planning, while its home in the Cultural Centre is lost in the proposal. It is the ideal size for use by the community to develop expression in theatre, dance and music. Small productions are lost in the size of the Capitol Theatre, and the rent is too high for small dance company recitals, the Music Festival, and Theatre Kent. The Kiwanis is a true theatre, with sloped auditorium flooring, wings, dressing rooms, lighting, etc. The only remaining theatre for use by the community, if the Kiwanis is lost, is in Bothwell. Support of community artistic development is important, just as community athletic development is.

The place of heritage in the downtown proposal is mixed. It is excellent that storefront development is designed to be compatible with Chatham’s Victorian streetscape. It is an irreplaceable loss if the public loses the Cultural Centre, with its Heritage designation.

Environmental cost is ever more pressing. Costs are measured not only in dollars to retrofit, beside dollars to build. Environmental costs are incurred when the beams and facades that support present buildings are wasted to be broken and moved into landfills. Congratulations to the developers for making use of the bones of the Sears building. Reservations on anything that loses what might be maintained well, or adapted for better function.

County Lady 5 months ago

Love the idea of doing something bigger in the downtown. 100%.

What we need though are a lot more details and this is not something that should be rushed into approval for the sake of an election.

Questions that come to mind: what's the actual cost of moving the entirety of city hall? That's no small project. What about records/archives and staff parking?

How are we going to accommodate parking and traffic for a 4000 seat arena? Parking is already hard downtown and about to get harder because Boutin now has a sign up suggesting the parking lot is going to be office space. Where is the planning department in this?

while I am at it, how the heck are we going to fit all of the proposed spaces on the mall space? even with knocking down most of the mall that's a lot of things in one space, even with multiple floors.

I would suggest that planners look to do things that *don't already exist* in Chatham Kent in this space, rather than pull things out of existing facilities. I know Ck wants to unload buildings, but my fear is that by pulling stuff out of these buildings, they'll be left with empty buildings that are hard to unload. if we put new and unique stuff downtown, that willl float all boats and the revenue on these other buildings will go up as more people will visit chatham downtown more often.

geebob 5 months ago

This is a tremendous opportunity for our municipality. To have a committed group of private investors, with a consistent track record of giving back to our community, is a great thing for all. To revitalize our fatigued downtown infrastructure with help from private investors such as Rob Myers at a time when our municipality is growing makes sense from many perspectives. Citizens will receive new, state of the art and environmentally-friendly buildings where they can visit, shop and participate in activities downtown. Quality of life improves for all as does the tax revenue base for the Municipality as it recoups revenue through business taxes. As more people move into the area, many more will see C-K as a quality destination for visiting, shopping and dining. This is a preferred alternative to spending millions to repair, upgrade and/or maintain existing, tired buildings. Please don't let this opportunity pass us by.

Jim Costello 5 months ago

Don't get me wrong I think Chatham needs this but
1) not sure where the $ would come from
2) having 4,000 seats for concerts/arena great idea but what happens to the Capitol theatre then since it holds no where near this many seats?
3) wondering if the "plan" goes far enough in regards to being green...like a green roof, solar. Have that "big" roof that would be the new civic centre why not use it

quailh 5 months ago

Yes this is a great idea live it!
Now with that being said I want to see some better financials and split of who owns what
As it would be easy for anyone to come to council and say hey we’re are going to build u the building of your dreams your going to tax fund it and then pay is to rent it that’s a great deal anyone would sign up for
Now if the deal is they build us the new library and city hall and they get the old library and city hall even swap and no rent owed to them then I am totally cool with the idea
I do love the idea of a new rink but we should not be renting from them for any purpose as we would still own two rinks

G55train 5 months ago

I think that we should wait until the upcoming recession is over before we even think about this FIELD OF DREAMS. Spike

spuddydog 6 months ago

This project would revitalize the downtown. This multi-use facility would be a plus for many citizens. Thank you to this group of investors who want to back such a project in their hometown.

MarcP 6 months ago

They certainly do a slick sell job but obviously this is the prelude to begging for money. Have we all forgotten the Capitol Theater debacle? I heard many similar promises to that fiasco and all it became was endless trips to council for more money. Our taxes are already high enough and the skyrocketing property values are going to drive them further. Now we want to add this? Yes, the needed repairs on municipal buildings are going to cost. Perhaps even the tens of millions of dollars this ad campaign video suggests. But this proposal is going to run into figures that will make ten million look like chump change.

Mytaxesarehighenough 6 months ago

I think this is a excellent idea to revitalize the downtown of Chatham the mall is a embarrassment and I’m so glad to see these things happen to the community well done

Michael97 6 months ago

Fantastic!! This is a great opportunity for our community and I support this.

It will be interesting to see what the financial commitment from the Municipality will be in the long run however ensuring that our community continues to grow comes with an economic investment that is necessary.

We are so fortunate to have community minded investors such as this group.

Exciting!

chikkr 6 months ago

First of all I have to say Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Rob Myers and the other members of the group that is planning to change the face of Downtown Chatham for the foreseeable future. Amalgamating City Hall, Chatham Library, The Cultural Centre and the Chatham Museum into the former Sears store is a great idea. The then old City Hall could possibly be changed into condos. The city does lots of buildings that it needs to take off their books. Particularly the Memorial Arena just needs to be bulldozed. The 4,000 seat will be a great for the whole county bringing in concerts, hockey, curling events, soccer and more. They could shut down King St and have the Farmers Market there. Make it a weekly event to bring people Downtown. We need to get behind this with all our might !! It needs to happen. It will create jobs that we so dearly need in Chatham-Kent.

Bob Allen 6 months ago

I think this is a very positive proposal. Bravos to the team proposing this!. I love the way the promemade effectively restoes Sixth Street (as a pedestrian walk) with the Cenotaph as the focal point, nada a continuation of the path into Tecumseh Park.. So, what about restoring Market Square - or a least space for a vibrant market to showcase local produce?

My other comment is a larger comment to the City. Facilitate the development of high density residential downtown close to this site, to create lots of walking traffic.

Graham Fisher 6 months ago

I live in the downtown area. I would like to be able to walk to markets in the summer that sell fresh local food. I would like to be able to buy my groceries without getting in a car year round. Please don’t make it purely for tourists and people that live out by Walmart.

Tjoudrey 6 months ago

An exciting proposal from a great group of community minded individuals. A few important details need to be flushed out for the community and council in order to make an informed decision.
1) What happens to old facilities and if sold to this group what is price/value?
2) Fixed Price Contract on new facilities build?
3)What are operating cost and revenue assumptions for new entertainment complex?

Kgraham01 6 months ago

I’m all for it let’s get it done. This will bring people back to Chatham and will put Chatham Kent back on the map. It will also give local families things to do with in the city and make downtown beautiful again. U have my vote

Dancdot5 6 months ago

This is great news for C-K! A great vision to bring life back to CK and the downtown core. Yes, there are questions to ask and due diligence to compete, but we fully support the concept. Thank you to this group for their pride and investment in C-K.

The Middels 6 months ago
Page last updated: 03 Nov 2022, 10:03 AM