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This letter, written by Loreena McKennitt, was published through Wise Communities on March 27, 2023.

It is with concern and disappointment that we are now seeing yet another of Stratford’s unique and significant buildings prepared for demolition without a timely and thorough transition plan. It need not have come to this, or at least not in the way that it has.

Avon Crest was constructed and sustained by taxpayer dollars. As such, there should be a heightened responsibility to the community to ensure a transition plan is thoroughly explored well in advance – one that is transparent and inclusive of the community. Whether by design or neglect, the delay of information coming into the public sphere and the lack of sincere engagement are prone to making citizens feel disrespected and the process undemocratic. As we know, a healthy democracy relies on transparency and citizen engagement.

Going forward, perhaps some consideration might be given to the idea of identifying an appropriate body which would be responsible for taking an inventory of all significant buildings in the city, particularly with respect to those built and maintained with taxpayer funds. Discussions might be had with such property owners so a process could be put into place which would heighten the chances of repurposing buildings when the time comes.

As the owner of the Falstaff Family Centre, which was once a public school built with taxpayer money, it has long been my intention to ensure the public be given notice when it’s time for this property to be passed from my hands. Indeed, one of the driving forces in purchasing it in the first place was to delay the prompt disposal of a public asset.

These buildings were built with public funds and deserve a chance to stay in service to the public.
There are benefits to having heritage buildings, which provide a unique sense of place and continuity for the people who have lived in the community. We are also learning of the very significant environmental considerations which need time and the proper resources to determine whether recycling or repurposing a building makes environmental sense.

I am deeply grateful to those who have continued to champion this building, knowing at the same time the people in charge may have left this matter too late.

Loreena McKennitt

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