A multi-million dollar proposal to transform the former Huronia Regional Centre into an international arts and cultural centre is not sitting well with some former HRC residents.

Cindy Scott spent her teens at the centre in the 1970s and the memories are still vivid. Scott would rather see the buildings bulldozed than repurposed.

“It's not a very nice place to be. It's painful memories for survivors.”

Toronto artist and Order of Canada recipient Charles Pachter is behind the idea. He admits that for years he didn't know anything about the HRC's past, but now that he does, he feels maybe it's time for the site to represent something different.

“With all the suffering that went on there, if it's to become something positive, creative and joyful; we still have to be able to move on.”

Many of the buildings have been abandoned since the HRC closed in 2009, but the site is still owned by the province.

Pachter's idea includes an outdoor performance centre, galleries and studios. However, given the HRC’s dark history of abuse and neglect some former residents and their families say this is no place for art.

Marilyn Dolmage's brother was a resident as a child and she also represented two former residents in the $35 million settlement with the Ontario government two years ago.

“We just can't imagine that you can have a happy ending in the buildings. That tells us so much about an unhappy chapter in history. We don't imagine you would go to a place of pain and horror to create art.”

Pachter says he's well aware of the HRC's tragic past and concerns from its former residents.  If the plan goes ahead, he says there are several buildings that will likely be torn down and insists the centre's history will not be forgotten.

“Not only will it not be forgotten, but it will be honoured and memorialized. I would like to see some international sculpture competitions to create a monument.”