Woolwich to buy former childcare site in Elmira
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Woolwich to buy former childcare site in Elmira

Given the $2 price, buying the former Elmira Children’s Centre at 22 Mockingbird Dr. in Elmira was an easy decision for Woolwich council. Deciding what to do with the property may require more thought.

At just under an acre, the landlocked site owned by the Region of Waterloo is surrounded by Park Manor Park. In buying the property, Woolwich plans to tear down the existing 6,700-square-foot building, which has been vacant since 2016 and is in poor repair.

Recreation staff suggest a new storage facility be built on the site, but that idea met with some reservations at councillors agreed to the land deal on June 27.

Coun. Larry Shantz noted the property isn’t well-situated, suggesting a more central location such as Conestogo.

While that would be ideal, replied manager of operations and projects Thomas van der Hoff, the township has to work with the properties it has available. He noted the recreation department is spending about $10,000 a year on rental space, along with storage spread out across numerous municipal locations.

“As the township continues to acquire additional park land and facilities, and in turn additional equipment, the department has outgrown this space, resorting to storing equipment throughout the township at the old Breslau fire station, Woolwich Memorial Centre, St. Jacobs Arena, and various park fieldhouses. The department is currently looking for a second rental space to offset our immediate storage needs,” he said in a written report to council.

But Coun. Patrick Merlihan shared Shantz’s concerns, saying not only is the location not central, it would mean a storage facility in the middle of a residential neighbourhood and in close proximity to neighbouring Park Manor Public School.

“I don’t see that being a good fit beside a school,” he said, suggesting a future use that’s more in tune with the park.

He added that the township is already looking at a new site for its public works department, which means the existing facility in the Union Street industrial area could be an option down the road.

Van der Hoff noted the new public works facility is still at least five or 10 years away from being tackled.

One use of the new site that’s likely to be less of an issue is the proposed addition of more parking.

The old childcare centre is slated for demolition this year, with $130,000 earmarked to knock it down and remediate the site. The existing building dates back to 1975, with needed repairs estimated at some $439,000, including a new roof, HVAC equipment replacement and repairs to the walls.

Plans for the site are likely to be on the agenda for the 2023 budget deliberations.

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