L'Arche Stratford: Britannia Street demolition is underway

426 Britannia St was purchased six years ago with the aim of developing a new home for L’Arche Stratford. Many obstacles stood in the way, including COVID and funding, but this August, the building demolition began with phase one, tearing down the old portable.

On August 21st, onlookers watched as the building started to come down. L’Arche Campaign Chair Elaine Clark-Siberry was first to address the crowd and said, “It's kind of a bittersweet day because it's wonderful that we're here, but there's an awful lot, so I know for some people, it'll be it'll be sad very confident of what's coming up in its place.”

The staff thanked those who’ve made this possible, including a recent million-dollar donation by one unnamed community member. Clark-Siberry expressed gratitude towards doners and said, “This is thanks to all the incredible people who strive to get us to this point. Thank you to everyone who made this happen.”

Iain Reynolds, Project Manager from Feltz Design Build Ltd., gave heartwarming remarks to staff and friends alike, “You're saying goodbye to this building, but saying hello to something new and exciting. A great step forward.” He continued, “What a great pleasure it has been working with everyone, and what an honour to work on a project that greatly supports promoting community inclusivity.”

Just before the demolition commenced, Stephanie Calma, Community Leader and Executive Director, gave a blessing on behalf of L’Arche Stratford, saying, “Today, we are enacting historically. We have the opportunity to say a beautiful goodbye to this building at 426 Britannia Street.” She went on, “Scrap metal, concrete, and beams are all commodities, but they're also commodities of our times that we spent here.”

Last spring, the L’Arche board of directors set up a Task Force to review the project, and they found that due to changing circumstances and the uncertainties of renovating the old building, they could not renovate and reuse the current building. At that time, L’Arche requested the help of an Architect, GB Architect Inc., and Project Managers at Feltz Design Build to implement a new concept drawing and prepare cost estimates for a brand-new one-story, purpose-built building. This new building will increase the number of residential units while maintaining some community space and office spaces.

Although demolition has officially begun, there are stages that will be implemented for proper safety. The first phase is the back portable, which will be demolished before moving onto the rest of the building over the next couple of weeks. Those interested in the demolition are encouraged to drive by and watch over the next few weeks.

Calma gave the final remarks before the official countdown to demolition, “Today, we say goodbye to this building and its memories. We express our gratitude for all it has given.” She went on, “Now comes the time that we've all been waiting for.”

Amanda Modaragamage, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Stratford Times