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$20-million reno complete at Lambton Shared Services Centre

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Cathy Dobson

A $20-million renovation many years in the making was celebrated Wednesday by about 50 people gathered at the redeveloped Lambton Shared Services Centre in downtown Sarnia.

“It’s a great day for Sarnia, a great day for Lambton County and, more importantly, a great day for people who use these services,” said Mayor Mike Bradley.

From left, Mayor Mike Bradley, Mike Plain of Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Lambton County CEO Ron Van Horne, and Lambton Warden Kevin Marriott at the grand re-opening. (Cathy Dobson photo)

He snipped a ribbon at the re-opening with Lambton Warden Kevin Marriott, county CEO

Ron Van Horne and Mike Plain of Aamjiwnaang First Nation who also performed a smudging ceremony.

“You do not know how difficult this deal was to put together,” Bradley told the assembled guests. He congratulated county politicians and staff for their work.

A crowd gathered inside the entrance and witnessed a traditional smudging ceremony performed by Mike Plain. (Cathy Dobson photo).

When Lambton Shared Services initially located in the former Eaton’s store on Christina Street, it was the first of its kind to combine federal, provincial and municipal services.

Federal agencies have since relocated to Exmouth Street but the newly-renovated building on Christina continues to house 200 county employees who work for a variety of programs including homelessness prevention and children’s services, the local immigration partnership, Lambton Circles, Ontario works, public health and housing services.

The province operates the Ontario Court of Justice and the Ontario Disability Support program.

The building is completely full, said Van Horne.

When renovations began, the Service Ontario that issues health cards and licences moved to the court house at 700 Christina St. North and will remain there.

Over the years, the shared services building has gone through a complex change in ownership that resulted in the $20-million overhaul.

The former Bayside Mall, which initially accommodated Lambton Shared Services, was purchased by Oakville-based Seasons Retirement Communities several years ago. At that time, Seasons’ officials laid out an ambitious plan to build a retirement home, commercial space and possibly an apartment complex on the property.

After considerable negotiation, a deal was struck for a 20-year lease between Seasons and Lambton County for the Lambton Shared Services building. One of the stipulations was that Seasons would pay for an overhaul.

“The renovations have turned out exceptionally well, and we are so excited to welcome everyone back into this refreshed space,” said Marriott.

Seasons Retirement Communities CEO, Mike Lavallee, did not attend the grand re-opening.
Prior to the pandemic, he said the next phase of construction would move ahead by now but no permits have been issued.

However, the mall was demolished this year and the land surrounding the shared services building is vacant, save for the underground parking facility that once served the shopping centre.

The Journal contacted Lavallee who issued the following statement:

“Seasons Retirement Communities is pleased for the City of Sarnia and Lambton County on the completion of Phase One, the Lambton Shared Services Centre. We hope they will enjoy many years in this purpose-built facility.

“As far as the master plan is concerned, we continue to work through construction challenges, including supply chain issues and have no further updates at this time.”

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The new Lambton Shared Services Centre. (Cathy Dobson photo)

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