By Laura Lennie, News Staff
The potential expansion of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Recreation Centre is one step closer to reality with the city’s purchase of adjacent land at the former Bishop Ryan Catholic high school.
Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins says he plans to hold a public meeting this spring to get feedback on a proposed gym and other possible amenities to be included in the expansion.
“We know that we need to replace the (shared) gymnasium that will be lost when Bishop Ryan is sold and demolished,” he said. “The plan would be to talk to the neighbourhood representatives about how large is the gymnasium, are there any amenities that will come with it, would we take this opportunity to retrofit in other parts of the current recreation centre? We’re not essentially starting over, but we’re looking to ensure that if we’re retrofitting the site that we’re adding the amenities the community would like to see.”
The city has bought about 1.2 hectares of the old high school property on Albright Road in a deal that’s set to close this week.
The Catholic school board declared the 6.6-hectare site surplus in May 2012 as part of plans to open a new Bishop Ryan high school in upper Stoney Creek. The school, built to accommodate growth in the area and Binbrook, opened its doors at 1824 Rymal Rd. E. in January.
The recreation centre is attached to the former high school. The city has used the gym in the school for recreation programming for decades. Centre utilities also are located in the school.
The city and school board have been talking about the municipality purchasing the property for the better part of a year.
Collins said the city couldn’t afford to buy the 6.6 hectares, but it was interested in 1.2 hectares to keep the recreation centre going.
“(Board chair Pat Daly) was very good with us through that process, as was obviously the board in allowing the city to parcel off that small portion to allow us to complete our objective,” he said. “Through the latter half of 2013, we were negotiating a price and both parties have agreed upon a price, which is at this point still confidential because there are conditions that we still need to resolve and they’re the basic conditions that would come with any sale. It’s just a matter of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”
Collins said the city has allocated money in the 2014 budget to investigate how to separate the recreation centre from the school.
“The main electrical feed for our swimming pool and the small portion of the recreation centre that we have attached to the pool, the main electrical feed comes from the school itself, as do the security and the fire alarms. We’re now investigating how this year we’ll disconnect those systems from the school and relocate them to the recreation centre area,” he said. “With all of that, obviously in the back of our mind is, how do we do that with the least amount of disruption to centre users? Staff have put their minds to those issues and are working on them right now.”
Daly said in the board’s agreement with the city there’s an “understanding” that the school’s demolition will not impact the recreation centre.
The board is still in discussions with a number of interested parties about the rest of the site, he added.
“We’re just waiting for the appropriate proposal,” Daly said. “When we get the right offer, that’s the timeline (to make a decision). The money generated from the sale will go to either purchasing property for new schools or, with ministry approval, to assist us with capital construction of other buildings.”
Collins said he expects the rest of the property will be used for development and include a mix of housing types.
“It’s currently zoned residential. We’re likely to see something that’s mixed density,” he said. “We’ll probably see a mix that’s very representative of what’s on Quigley (Road) right now – it’s a mix of small apartments, large apartments, townhouses and single family homes. The community, likely with the new development, will look like the current character and configuration of the neighbourhood.”