The former Moncton High School could soon become the home of a massive U-Haul storage facility.
U-Haul representative Jeff Lockridge said the company has been scouting the site since last fall and wants to purchase the building.
“I can confirm U-Haul has been scouting the old high school site since late 2015 as a potential acquisition for a U-Haul moving and storage facility,” he said in an email. “An offer has been made and we’re in the process of seeking approval from the province first, after which we would seek approval from the city.”
U-Haul representatives did a walk through at former school Thursday.
Liberal MLA Chris Collins, who represents the riding of Moncton Centre, said he is against the idea.
“This is a provincial building, and as a provincial representative I will never support having a warehouse in my neighbourhood and my constituency,” he said.
Lockridge said the facility would house a rental store and large rental units used for personal storage. He added that the company is committed to maintaining the building’s heritage and facade.
Joe Tippet and a group called MH Renaissance have a different vision for the building. They want to transform it into a cultural centre.
“My father was a teacher here in 1936 when it opened,” Tippet said. “It’s the heart and soul of our community.”
The group’s vision includes refurbishing the auditorium and turning it into the largest theatre in Atlantic Canada. The Atlantic Ballet has already expressed interested in moving in.
“It’s for not only us, but it’s for our kids and our grandchildren,” Tippet said.
Tippet said the entire project from start to finish would cost about $21 million. He said his group would purchase the building, carry a large mortgage, and seek funding from all three levels of government to make its vision a reality. The plan also includes renting out part of the building to businesses to help pay the mortgage and make it self-sufficient.
If the province approves the U-Haul bid, Lockridge said the company will then seek city approval.
Moncton Councillor Dawn Arnold said she has not seen the company’s proposal and that there are still other options for the building.
“I think everybody would love to have a community centre, but we are living in very difficult financial times,” she said.
She did not directly comment on how people in the community would react, but said that self-storage is “the number 1 growing business in North America.” She also acknowledged that the future of the building is an emotional topic for people.