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City OKs Lonsdale school development

City OKs Lonsdale school development

School admin building, Artists for Kids gallery, 234 condo units

Benjamin Alldritt, North Shore News

Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009

PLANS for a major mixed-use housing development on the site of the former Lonsdale school cleared major hurdles from City of North Vancouver council Monday night.

Mayor Darrell Mussatto and councillors voted 6-1 to approve second and third reading of rezoning bylaws that clear the path for a $32-million administration building for North Vancouver school district, 234 condo units, a new gallery for the Artists for Kids program and 16 homes for Housing for Young Adults with Disabilities, or HYAD. The developer, Polygon, will also perform a $500,000 renovation of the adjacent Rey Sargent Park. Some of the proceeds from Polygon purchasing the land will go towards the heritage restoration of Ridgeway and Queen Mary schools.

Final adoption of bylaws is generally a procedural formality.

AN artist's rendering of what one of the three condominium buildings might look like on the former Lonsdale school site at 2151 Lonsdale Ave.View Larger Image View Larger Image

AN artist's rendering of what one of the three condominium buildings might look like on the former Lonsdale school site at 2151 Lonsdale Ave.

-only public hearing, in which supporters of HYAD and Artists for Kids appealed to councillors to support the development.

"This project for HYAD is the light at the end of our journey," said Maria Gilbert, speaking alongside her son DJ, a member of HYAD. "This project answers the question: 'What would happen to my child after I'm gone?' Their siblings will be able to lead normal, independent lives. They will be able to love and care for their disabled sibling like any other without that financial burden."

The project was also endorsed by the Lower Lonsdale Business Association, the North Shore Heritage Society and the Community Housing Action Committee.

Opposition centred around whether the school district ought to build a new administration building at a time when schools are closing and staffing levels cut.

"A new office building, to my mind, does not translate into better education for students," Reimar Kroecher said. "Students are in portables and in buildings that are not earthquake proof." Kroecher suggested that Balmoral school, slated to close in 2012, could be the new home for both administration and Artists for Kids, and argued that the gallery and HYAD components were "bait" to win council votes.

School district chair Susan Skinner said the new building would create long-term savings by combining offices currently spread among three aging, energy-inefficient buildings.

"School districts do not get capital funding for office buildings or heritage restoration," Skinner continued. "With this project we can direct several million dollars towards restoring two landmark city schools, Ridgeway and Queen Mary. With the proper climate-controlled gallery, we will protect and display the Artists for Kids collection, valued at more than $1 million, for future generations and improve the delivery of arts education."

In addition to the concrete administration and gallery building, Polygon will build three wood-frame apartment blocks containing 234 condominium units. Two of the buildings will be five storeys tall.

Throughout the process, Coun. Pam Bookham has pressed the developer for details on the long-term performance and fire safety of such structures. The buildings will be the first five-storey wood frame residential buildings on the North Shore.