Despite the fact that Collingwood is surely one of the prettiest towns in the province, the folks living in Olde Towne would likely tell you that their view to the west is anything but pretty.
On the north side sits an empty lot and an abandoned, boarded up old rooming house. On the south sits the neglected Tremont Hotel and the construction site for the new library. In the distance you see an auto body shop and overhead, a jumble of utility wires. There is hardly anything redeeming in site.
There is however, a new movement underway and this sad little corner downtown may soon become one of the more admired corners of our fair town.
First, the new library and municipal building is well underway now. After an agonizing public delay and process, the new building will have a design that is sympathetic and in concert with the 19th century heritage stylings of our historic downtown. Blending old and new, this fabulous library will earn the coveted Gold Level, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
The Tremont was also the subject of much debate and discourse. In recent years, this municipally owned building was falling deeper into disrepair (we call that demolition by neglect) while heritage enthusiasts pleaded for its survival. Today, it is rumoured that the town has entered into an agreement with a private interest to restore the building into a mixed commercial-residential complex. If so, it would be a perfect example of creative and adaptive reuse of a building that preserves a cultural heritage asset and brings new life and function into its purpose.
Generally speaking, it seems that one or two new developments in an area spurs interest in improving other properties nearby. Given the scale of these two large redevelopments at St. Paul and Simcoe, I think the folks in Olde Towne may have a much better view ahead.