Sunday, September 24, 2023

Former High School to Become a Trade School, Track Property Could Become Affordable Housing & Community Green Space Project

The future of the former high school building and its second property which has served as an athletic field is becoming more clear.

Last week, Mayor Ross Kentner announced that he, along with Deputy Mayor Shirley Keaveney, had met with Amaninder Bharj, of Toronto Excellence College, who has purchased the former school building with plans to turn it into a trade school. Toronto Excellence College is a newly formed entity that has yet to establish its curriculum, though according to its website is currently seeking to raise $8 million in donations in order to make the new trade school a reality. Their website suggests that the total cost to transform the former high school into a trade school will be as much as $25 million.

It is hoped to re-open the facility by mid-2024 with courses including carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. Toronto Excellence College is a start-up private college run by people with experience in the field. Mr. Bharj told us they have been looking for a smaller community within two hours of the GTA and found the former GBSS site ideal for their project. They have been working on curriculum approvals with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities,” Mayor Kentner posted on his Facebook page after meeting with Bharj.

Mayor Kentner noted that there could be 80 residential units included in the plans for student and faculty housing.

We recommended that Amaninder look to dovetail their courses with Georgian College’s offerings on the Owen Sound and Collingwood campuses as well as explore the trades needs of TC Energy for the proposed pumped storage project. Amaninder told us there will be a residency component. The College has already submitted an application to our Planning Dept. He said there could be 80 residential units on campus for students and faculty,” said the mayor on his Facebook page.

It is unclear at this time if the goal of beginning operations next year is realistic given the many hurdles to clear, including the raising of $8 million, Ministry approvals of its curriculum, renovations to the building, and the hiring of a faculty.

Information about the Toronto Excellence College can be found on their website: tecollege.ca

The athletic field across the road from the former high school is also being sold by the Bluewater District School Board, and there is a new possibility that it could become the location of a new affordable housing project.

At council’s September 11 meeting, Deputy Mayor Shirley Keaveney introduced a motion seeking a special meeting of council to be held on September 18 in order to discuss the potential for the project, which is being driven by Grey County.

In her motion, which found the unanimous support of council, Keaveney noted that council has identified housing affordability as one of its strategic priorities for this term of council, and that Grey County has committed to spending its share of the 2021 PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) settlement related to the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre on a housing project within the Municipality of Meaford. Keaveney noted that council would like to see an affordable housing project along with green-space for that property, and a partnership with the County could make that desire a reality.

The special meeting of council will be held on September 18, and will be “a discussion about the potential options for a housing and community green space project on the track property, and partnerships with the County of Grey.”

Thank you Deputy Mayor Keaveney for bringing this forward,” said Councillor Harley Greenfield. “It’s an excellent suggestion. Last year at election time, all of us as candidates indicated that we want to do something constructive with that track property, we knew it was coming up for sale, and we were hoping it would have come onto the market for a considerably less asking price.”

Council had previously indicated that the asking price was too high for the municipality to consider purchasing the property, however a partnership with the County helps to clear that hurdle.

This is a once in a lifetime chance, an opportunity, and we need to pursue it,” Greenfield told council.

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