Saturday, September 15, 2012

McCormick/Beta Brands factory burns - No more cookies for you

I'm beginning to wonder if there's some kind of higher-order reason or power that governs some of the things we do.

Example: Just over a week ago, I had a meeting about 40 km outside London. On my way back, I took a route through the eastern part of town that I normally wouldn't visit. It's a somewhat gritty, somewhat down-on-its-luck center of manufacturing. They make Kellogg's cereal not far from here. And in this building, the former McCormick-Beta Brands factory, they made cookies. I wrote about it here.

Delicious memory, I know, but not such a delicious present. See, the building closed down a few years ago, and it's sat abandoned ever since then. Wait, not quite abandoned, as squatters have turned what was once a jewel of a building into something everyone said they wanted saved, but no one seemed willing or able to do. I had always wanted to come down here to grab a few photos. Urban ruins fascinate me, because despite their rotten edges, I've always seen a core that's worth saving. They literally don't build them like this anymore, and when we lose them, we lose them for good.

Other cities have succeeded in saving their industrial relics and converting them into loft residences, office space and other appropriately modern facilities. Walking through one of these saved-from-the-wrecker's-ball offices makes you realize just how special these places are, and how lucky we are when someone has the vision and the capability to make it happen. This rebirth isn't limited to these structures themselves: entire neighborhoods around them regrow as, as well, thanks to anchors that attract attention and investment.

Sadly, a fire broke out at the McCormick-Beta Brands plant earlier this evening, barely 9 days after I took these. The photo currently running in the London Free Press article - see here - captures part of the scene  in my photo on the left.  I felt a decided sense of loss as I realized the not-quite-urgent process of turning a forgotten hulk into a potential crown jewel would now likely never see the light of day. We've got to do better.

Your turn: How do we prevent this in future? Is there an answer to cost-effectively turning the giants of yesterday into the communities of tomorrow? Or am I just dreaming in Technicolor?

2 comments:

Rita said...

Glad you made that detour the other day. This was quite an impressive building.

I love that first shot with all the squares of glass blocks surrounding the windows.

Looks like you may have found your next theme for Thematic Photographic?

Oliver Hobson said...

McCormick's didn't 'just close'. An American investment firm called Sun Capital based in Florida bought it and shut it down after 3 years,throwing 300 people out of work.

Funny that only the other day Stephen Orser was at council trying to get put a rush on things so the site could be developed. Council recommended that the first phase of environmental testing be completed...and quelle surprise...the building 'spontaneously combusts'

The only thing missing are pictures of Stephen Orser and Joe Fontana cooking hot dogs and roasting marshmallows by the fire side.