Part of Toronto’s oldest elementary school could be up for sale
TORONTO — Tension is building in one of Toronto’s most desirable neighbourhoods. Yonge and Eglinton has seen an explosion of growth over the years and much of it has been vertical.
“There are approximately 12 or 13 condos that are proposed or approved that are 30 stories plus. Two are 50 stories,” said Gilles Fecteau, a homeowner who lives across the street from John Fisher Public School.
The school, built in 1887, is showing signs of age. Construction fencing and heavy machinery are parked out front as kids play in the schoolyard behind. In order to fund a new building the Toronto District School Board asked the Toronto Lands Corporation, its real estate adviser, how to find the money.
The corporation recommended selling a half-acre of the property. “Toronto Lands didn’t indicate what specific half acre that land would be,” said Jeff Latto, senior manager of major capital projects with the TDSB.
But many worried it would be the field used by students – rare public play space in an area that has been taken over by condominiums.
“There’s a need for space for children to play. The schoolyard should be available, not only to school kids but also to people in the surrounding areas,” said Tom, a homeowner who like many on his street are concerned about the encroachment of condos.
“Wrong steps which we are taking — it has to be rethought.”
“It’s way too much,” said Christina, another homeowner who said there isn’t enough infrastructure to sustain the growing population. “They’re not improving the infrastructure like the sewers and water system and I think that’s a huge problem.”
Jaye Robinson, the local councillor, is strongly in favour of preserving public green space. She said the half-acre plot of land that’s potentially on offer was valued between $15 and 20 million. “Where are we going to get that kind of money,” she said.
Next week the city’s executive committee will be considering a recommendation to ask the province to change the rules and allow it to pay below fair market value for school board properties deemed “surplus” and on sale.
Currently, such properties are offered to public institutions first, but they are often priced out of reach of cash-strapped municipalities. Condo developers are next in line, and many are concerned valuable public space will be lost.
Toronto has asked the province to revise the regulations governing the sale of school property through nine separate council decisions, but so far they haven’t budged on shrinking the price tag for the city.
In an email to Global News, Ontario’s Ministry of Education said it has “consulted on proposed reforms” and “is currently reviewing the results of the consultation and intends to amend the regulation in the near future.”
In the spring, the TDSB is to release a report on the matter related to John Fisher Public School. “We hear loud and clear that there is not a lot of support from the community to sell the half acre,” said Latto.