Last September, the derelict condition of the Veldman family-owned pulp tower/board mill buildings on the old St. Marys Paper site had no harsher critic than Matthew Shoemaker.
“I know there’s been multiple fires at the pulp tower,” said the then-Ward 3 councillor, responding to a proposal from Justus, Paul and John Veldman to build a $300-million battery storage facility on part of the former paper mill site.
But neglected buildings and their owners had become an election issue and Shoemaker pushed hard to get the Veldmans to clean up their act.
“Personally, my support will come after we see that progress happen, not before,” Shoemaker warned.
Since then, we’ve had a municipal election and Coun. Shoemaker is now Mayor Shoemaker – a significant obstacle in the way of any development proposals the Veldmans wish to advance.
On Friday, Jan. 13, Shoemaker toured the pulp tower and board mill with the Veldmans and declared himself pleased with what he saw.
“When I went there,” Shoemaker told SooToday, “it was very obvious that they had done interior remediations.”
“There was no debris anywhere, there was no evidence of intrusion from people trying to get in.”
“They had the place secured from the exterior. There were temporary lights on.”
“You could walk through there. It was a clean building that looked like it needed a lot of work.”
“But otherwise, it appeared to be in quite good shape from a structural standpoint.”
“I’m not a structural engineer, but the interior looked like it was a solid old building,” the mayor said.
“They gave me some hope. I still think that something needs to happen with the place.”
“It’s great that you’ve done some interior remediation,” Shoemaker says he told the Veldmans.
“But we need a real plan that will get this building to a use: whatever that ultimate use is.”
“We want to see the whole site de-activated and we don’t want to see vacant buildings on it.”
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Jan. 18, the mayor met with a principal of S.M. International Holdings Ltd., the Markham-based company that bought Station Mall this past summer for $30 million.
“The talk… was about what opportunities they’re exploring, what opportunities they think there are for improvements at the Station Mall,” Shoemaker said.
“In my opinion it very much showed a commitment on their part to do something with the space.”
“In my understanding their current intention is to fill it up with small-type attractions: retail, food services, that kind of thing.”
“A less-vacant version of what they have been for the last number of years,” the mayor told SooToday.
“I’m not sure how much they would want to disclose, but what I can say is they have ideas on what they’re going to put in the space and they wanted to run those ideas past people who are familiar with the community, myself included.”
“I wasn’t the only meeting that they had. I’m quite certain of that, but they wanted to get our feedback on what works here.”
“I would just say that it’s a positive relationship – a really good one.”
“The company that owns it is showing some true intention and commitment to invest in the community.”
“I think the place will be in a better spot than it has been for at least the last five to seven months.”
“I think we’ll see a different type of Station Mall than what we’ve seen in the more recent past,” the mayor said.
Are they considering new construction?
“I think it would be just typical mall-type construction: realignment of the interior as opposed to anything beyond that, but I don’t know that for a certainty.”
“My understanding is that the intention is to fill the existing space,” the mayor said.
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