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Second housing tower to be constructed, 15 years after Alma College fire in St. Thomas, Ont.

It’s a moment burned in the memory of St. Thomas residents.

The historic Alma College went up in flames 15 years ago on May 28, 2008 after the fire was set by local teenagers.

In the past five years, the property was purchased, a massive housing project was proposed, and an eight-story tower has been built, with a capacity of 156 units.

Among the residents is third-generation Alma College graduate Jane-Ann Tasker.

“I just feel like I'm at home again,” she said.

Tasker and her husband Jack were among the first tenants.

“There are some Alma people here, and one more coming in,” said Tasker. “It was just very sad to drive by when it was in ruins, after the fire and even prior to the fire. But to see something like this be built on the property. It's just magnificent."

Jane-Ann Tasker is a third-generation Alma College graduate. She was one of the first tenants to move into the housing development on the former site of the all-girls school. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

The Taskers are about to have some new neighbours.

Starting next month, developer Michael Loewith will begin phase two of the project. It will be a nine-story, 167 unit tower.

“It’s in the southwest corner, so it two sides of it will have direct ravine views,” said Loewith. “It's going to be a really, really special spot. The floor plans are amazing. There is going to be some really nice units overlooking the ravine.”

Tenants said the building has become a community. Even St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston — who advocated for the build — sold his four-bedroom home and moved into the phase one tower.

They said the building has become a community.

A rendering of the phase two tower, which will be built on the former Alma College property in St. Thomas, Ont. (Source: Michael Loewith)

“There is a lot of seniors, which is fine, a lot of pets and we enjoy those,” said Tasker, who watched the 2021 fireworks from Pinafore Park with other tenants from the eighth-floor lounge balcony. “We have potluck dinners, there's card games, there's happy hours.”

The project however didn't come without opposition.

Many nearby residents, and some former Alma College students, were not in favour of this development.

“There was a lot of people that you know questioned the scope of the project, our ambition and our dedication to the project,” said Loewith, who so far has delivered what he said he was going to do.

A rendering of the phase two tower, which will be built on the former Alma College property in St. Thomas, Ont. (Source: Michael Loewith)

“Sometimes I just have to kind of go on to the trail [at the west end of the property] and look at the whole project,” he added. “It's pretty inspiring.”

CTV News London was on site in 2020 for the “largest one-day concrete pour in southwestern Ontario history.”

“This building is a little bit bigger, so the pour is going to be a little bigger,” said Loewith. “The first one, we had just under 300 truckloads of concrete, and it took us about 12 hours to do it. This one will probably be about 350 truckloads of concrete, so hopefully we get as lucky with the weather as we did a couple years ago.”

An overhead look at the plans for the entire Alma College property in St. Thomas, Ont., which includes the heritage designs. (Source: Michael Loewith) Loewith promised parts of this property would pay homage to the former school. The heritage interpretation plan has been submitted to the City of St. Thomas.

He claims the amphitheater will be restored when phase two is complete.

The heritage garden, and recreation of the tower spire and entrance gates will take place after the construction of phase three when the project finalizes. Top Stories

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