The Thorold Museum is looking for a permanent home — and they think they've found it in Fire Station 1 on Towpath St.
There’s only one caveat. Thorold City Council has already promised the Thorold Municipal Non-Profit Housing Corporation (TMNPH) the right of first opportunity to buy the building when it becomes available on the market.
To try and change city council’s mind, the Thorold Museum is set to give a presentation at an upcoming council meeting on Dec. 20.
“Museums are important for helping preserve and promote the culture and the heritage in the community,” says the president of the Thorold Museum, Randy Barnes, in an interview with ThoroldToday. “We’ll put the ball in their court and then we’ll see what they do with it.”
As ThoroldToday reported back in May, Thorold City Council committed to a three-year plan to develop the Thorold Museum.
When it became clear in August that the City of Thorold would retire Fire Station 1, the museum made an overture to turn the building into their permanent location.
Now, the Thorold Museum hopes to convince the newly elected city council that their plans for the building are still the best one.
“As I understand it, the decision with the housing board is if they’re going to dispose of the building,” says Barnes. “If the city makes the decision they’re not going to sell then that contingency no longer exists. We would be essentially leasing it into perpetuity from the city so they still would have certain landlord responsibilities too.”
Ever since the Thorold Museum went into the three-year partnership with the city, they’ve been hard at work restructuring their organization and acquiring charitable status.
Now it’s time for the city to honour their commitment, says Barnes.
“We’re working on our part of the deal and making this arrangement for us to go into the fire hall would mean the city answering with their part of the deal,” he says.
While Barnes acknowledges the need for more housing in Thorold, he doesn’t think that the fire hall is the best location.
“For this to be non-profit housing you run into a whole other set of issues,” Barnes says. “You’re looking at a building that’s sitting on in-fill, it’s literally sitting on the old canal. At the time [the TMNPH] put their oar in the water they themselves had done no serious looking at the site. The thing was just simply becoming available so they expressed interest.”
Putting a museum into the fire station makes complete sense, according to Barnes.
“There’s various pieces of historic firefighting equipment that have been looking for a home for a long time,” he says. “The bay areas would make a very nice home for some of that historic equipment. Frankly we don’t know of any other buildings where we could do that. This building would offer an opportunity for the museum and other heritage groups in Thorold to start consolidating some of what we have.”
While the TMNPH still needs to do studies to figure out if the fire hall on Towpath St. is a viable location, Barnes would also like to move forward with his vision for the building.
Fire Station 1 is set to be occupied until mid-2024 when the new fire station on McCleary Drive is completed.
“We’re obviously not going to be doing anything while it’s still an active fire hall,” Barnes says. “What we would want to be doing is all of the development work and lining up backers and funders. There’s a lot of things we want to be doing in the interim and it would make more sense if we could do some of this work knowing that in two years we’re now going to be able to start working on this building.”
All Barnes can do is make his case to city council and hope that they will get behind his vision.
“They’re going to have to make a decision one way or the other,” Barnes says. “If they’re going to give non-profit housing the first right to bid on it then how long is that going to stay on the table? The city is going to have to put more parameters on this. In the meantime all we can do is continue proceeding the way that we are.”
The matter is to go before city council on Dec. 20.