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Jeff Heuchert photo

Jeff Heuchert photo

Local provincial Liberal candidate Stewart Skinner reads from a prepared statement Thursday outside the old CNR shops on the Cooper site.

Liberals’ Skinner adds Cooper site to his agenda

Jeff Heuchert editor@stratfordgazette.com

The fate of the Cooper site in Stratford is becoming more than just a municipal issue.

On Thursday, local provincial Liberal candidate Stewart Skinner pledged his support towards helping facilitate a local solution for the city-owned property if elected on June 12.

He said he’s been knocking on doors for months and has heard consistently from people in Stratford that they are eager to see progress on the redevelopment of the site.

Reading from a prepared statement in the St. Patrick Street parking lot with the former CNR shops behind him, Skinner said he would advocate for provincial funding for the new use for the site.

“My vision is looking for progress through partnership,” he said, noting the city has accomplished a great deal in the past thanks to cooperation between all levels of government.

He cited the Stratford Festival, the Rotary Complex, and University of Waterloo Stratford campus as examples of what can happen “when public and private work together to bring solutions to a community.”

Stratford has undergone an “impressive transformation” in recent years and the Cooper site is a “critical component” to ensuring that continues, he added.

How to proceed with the redevelopment of the old locomotive shops remains very much in question. Heritage advocates want to see the structure preserved and adapted for another use. Others feel the cost to retain the building will be too great and would prefer to see it torn down for new development.

It’s sure to be a hotly-debated topic in the future, yet Skinner suggested he had no apprehensions about getting involved.

“You can’t be afraid of controversy if you’re getting into this business,’” he said. “You have to listen to people and deliver what they want.”

However, during a question period following his presentation Skinner was careful not to wade into the discussion over how the site should be redeveloped, other than to say he feels it’s important that the heritage of the site and the role the railway played in the city’s early years be respected.

The future of the site is a municipal decision, Skinner said, noting his job is to make sure the province “takes on an honest share of the funding” regardless of what direction the local council takes.

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