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County ponders options after buying empty bank building

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Troy Shantz
Lambton County has purchased the former CIBC building in downtown Sarnia, possibly for expansion of the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery, officials say.

Gallery use is one of four ideas on the table for the Front Street bank building purchased for $1.025 million, said Lambton County clerk Stephane Thiffeault.

“There’s obviously a natural link to the gallery, given that the gallery already occupies the second storey of the building.”

From 1877 until shortly before its sale, the property at Front and Lochiel streets had been continuously owned and operated as a Bank of Commerce, then a CIBC branch. The current building dates to the 1950s.

The county has been leasing the top floor of the 8,180-square-foot bank since 2010 when construction began on the Judith & Norman Alix Gallery next door. The space currently houses gallery administration offices and a large meeting room overlooking the St. Clair River.

Thiffeault said the property has long been on the county’s radar and the lease featured a purchase option should the bank ever decide to move.

All of the potential ideas for the space include use of the main floor and large basement, but renovations will be needed, he said.

“(It’s in) very good condition and I think it would be appropriate for a number of potential uses.”

Plans will be finalized in the coming weeks and presented to county council “fairly early in the new year,” he said.

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