Opening the door to growth in Lanark County
Local leaders are hoping that a rare look inside the former Rideau Regional Centre near Smiths Falls will spur a new tenant.
The 800,000-square-foot facility, set on 354 acres, remains in good shape according to Dawn Quinn, the acting mayor of Smiths Falls. That includes a swimming pool, fitness centre, and a 240-seat auditorium.
The property once bustled with thousands of people after opening in the mid-1950s as an institution for people with developmental disabilities. Only about 20 staff members remain since the Rideau Centre was decommissioned by the provincial government.
The closure was another hit to a region hit by hard times with the loss of the Hershey chocolate plant and other manufacturing closures.
"If you feel like you're moving back than you're moving back," Quinn tells CTV Ottawa. "So we can't even think that. We have to be very positive, move forward, and believe in our town."
Andy Thomas, a Smiths Falls garage owner, has proposed turning the property into an active living space for seniors, but equipped with attractions for all ages.
"There's so many job losses and so much discouragement," Thomas says. "We felt this would be a total waste if nothing (was) done with it."
A survey is also being distributed through the community.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's John Hua