Plan tabled to convert bank to park land
Behind the scenes, a plan has been brewing that would result in a community foundation taking possession of the TD Bank building in Creemore, and razing it to make room for the expansion of the Hort Park.
Tony Arrell and Stuart Lazier have met with officials at TD Bank and although a deal had not yet been inked, they say there are assurances that the bank is willing to gift the building to the community.
The TD Bank building on Mill Street has been sitting vacant since the Creemore branch closed in May, but the building is still used to house the bank machine.
The proposal is in its infancy and many details – including where to locate the bank machine – have yet to be sorted.
The idea is to incorporate the bank property into a landscaped central park or town square with design features to encourage public use.
Meetings between the proponents and members of the Creemore Horticultural Society have taken place and there is some consensus that with financial support for maintenance, the Hort Society can get behind the plan.
This all came out at a public meeting hosted by the Creemore BIA Sept. 28, when about 30 people from the business community, and a few from the community-at-large, gathered at Station on the Green to weigh the pros and cons of removing a commercial building from Creemore’s main street in order to increase park space.
Arrell, who divides his time between Toronto and his Mulmur farm, said the proposal came about because of his connection to both the Creemore community and TD Bank. He said he tried to save the bank but when that wasn’t possible he looked at the bank and thought, “It doesn’t fit with the ambiance the town has.”
“We wanted to make something special out of the whole space, to re-imagine it,” said Arrell.
So they asked TD Bank officials and they have agreed in principle to donate the property and share resources for tree planting and that they are working on an agreement for gifting the land to a foundation, which is in the process of being set up.
“I could tell him we don’t want his gift but it would seem to me not too good of a decision,” said Arrell.
The Hort Society has been told they would direct the expansion project.
“We all love our garden but we know it’s a bit of a walk-through space,” said president Judi Parker. “It’s not a place to linger and socialize.”
She said the membership supports removing the less aesthetically pleasing building and enhance the garden to create a heart for the community.
“We can’t speak for the whole community but we can do what The Hort does best, beautify space,” said Parker.
She said it would create a new buzz, new excitement and of the members present at their last meeting, there was unanimous support for the project.
“We went back to Tony and Stuart and said, go for it guys,” said Parker, adding that it fits with Hort Society founder John Hisey’s vision to make Creemore the prettiest village in Canada.
With the TD paying $2,000 in annual levies to the Creemore BIA, it is poised to lose 10 per cent of its $20,000 annual levy but there was talk of that shortfall being made up by the foundation.
“The TD Bank is committed to doing something for the community,” said Lazier. “They feel very badly [about closing the Creemore branch].”
He said they are working with Sobey’s to see if the bank machine could be relocated to Foodland.
During the meeting a number of pros and cons were voiced but the vocal majority in the room saw the removal of the building as a way of creating valuable public space in the downtown area to enhance visitor experience and keep people in town. On the con side, a minority expressed opposition to removing existing quality commercial space in a village where office space is needed, and possible alternative uses for the building being overlooked.
The plan is in its early phase and there are a lot of details to work out. After the meeting Arrell said the gift of the property is not contingent on demolishing the building but repurposing it hadn’t been considered.