A grand idea for transforming the former SCITS building is now before us

Brought forward by the late Thea deGroot, moving the Sarnia Library and giving way to new City Hall is 'visionary'

Just a few weeks before her untimely passing from pancreatic cancer, Thea deGroot authored an opinion piece in the Sarnia Journal which deserves significant consideration.

Thea, the wife of Art deGroot and brother-in-law to John, who owns the eponymous garden centre on London Line, was a well-known community advocate on various social justice issues.

I first met her in connection with her work on Fruit Share, an initiative that was formed in 2012 and which continues even today.

But it was Thea’s idea around what to do with the building formerly known as the Sarnia Collegiate Institute and Technical School that caught my eye.

Thea deGroot

Two years ago this month, trustees at the Lambton Kent District School Board voted to dissolve St. Clair Secondary School and SCITS, combining the two into Great Lakes Secondary School and eventually closing the SCITS building after renovating the existing St. Clair facility.

That work is scheduled for completion in time for Great Lakes to move out of the former SCITS building this fall, setting in motion the “what to do with the building” question.

Acknowledging that some in our community have floated the idea of moving Sarnia’s City Hall into the grand old building, Thea brings forward another idea that starts with using the existing Sarnia Public Library into a footprint for City Hall (either renovating the building or building new).

Under her vision, the library would move to the SCITS building, turning what most people acknowledge is a structure too good to tear down into a highly useable community hub.

The building, as many already known, has a great theatre (much bigger than the existing Sarnia Library one) and so many rooms that it would be difficult to give the entire structure the description it is due in this space.

My urging is that the “powers that be” at least give some serious consideration to the idea.

While there may be numerous reasons why such a shuffling of assets wouldn’t work, real vision dictates that we ought to see this opportunity as one that could continue a process of reinvigorating the downtown area and bringing us all a little closer together.

The fact that this idea was put forward by one of our community’s bright and shining stars is, I think, a bonus.

In the meantime, a service in celebration of Thea’s life will be held this Friday May 25, 2018 at 2 p.m. at Redeemer Christian Reformed Church in Sarnia, followed by a light lunch.

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