Two Toronto schools up for sale will likely not be turned into condo developments if one of two public-sector bidders, which include another school board, gets the deal.
The land that is home to Bloor Collegiate Institute and Kent Senior Public School has been declared surplus by the Toronto District School Board, and the Toronto Catholic District School Board has put in an offer. Because of provincial legislation governing the sale of public assets, it may be that the Catholic board does not have to actually outbid private developers hoping to turn the subway-serviced corner into a new condominium complex.
The TDSB owns more than six hectares of land at the southwest corner of Bloor and Dufferin. A sports field occupies about a quarter, the remainder is shared between Kent P.S. (closed in 2012), Bloor C.I. (presently home to its 526 students and the 74 students enrolled in Alpha II Alternative School) and Brockton High School (closed in 1995).
Last year, the TDSB declared almost half of that land surplus, announcing that students in the Bloor C.I. building would be moved to a renovated Brockton building by 2016. This January, it directed its real-estate management arm, the Toronto Lands Corporation [TLC], to sell a three-hectare parcel that's home to Bloor C.I. and Kent P.S., built in 1925 and 1909, respectively.
Under provincial legislation, there followed a 90-day period during which only other levels of government, colleges or school boards could bid on the property. On the last day of the exclusive bidding period last week, the Toronto Catholic District School Board and another unnamed party made offers.
Gary Wheeler, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Education, explains that TLC now has about 30 days to negotiate with the bidding parties.
Provincial regulation 444 stipulates that public agencies like school boards do not necessarily have to pay fair market value, estimated at $50-million in this case, for surplus schools. They can pay only the replacement value, determined by a formula involving school capacity and construction costs, if it is determined to be lower.
"The regulation is intended to let the public retain taxpayer-funded assets," says Angelo Sangiorgio, associate director of planning and facilities for the Catholic board.
Mr. Sangiorgio met with Ward 18 councillor Ana Bailao last week to discuss possible collaboration with the city. He cited as an example a project in the Railway Lands at Fort York Boulevard and Spadina Avenue where the Catholic board will be leasing land from the city to build an elementary school adjacent to a community centre.
Ms. Bailao says the city is "involved" in the Catholic board's bid, and said possible outcomes for the site could include an additional public park and a hub of community facilities in one or both of the schools.
Whether the city is involved or not, Mr. Sangiorgio says the Catholic board needs the space. The immediate need is for more secondary-student capacity, but he points out that the city can scarcely afford to lose classroom space for the sake of condos, considering that condos mean more pupils.
"The city has projected growth of an additional hundreds of thousands of people over the next 20 years. There will be more students," says Mr. Sangiorgio. "School sites to address this growth are hard to come by. You don't find seven acres in downtown Toronto any more."
If no agreement is reached, the bidding party can request arbitration. Only if that process fails to secure a deal will the land be put on the open market. The amounts of the bids have not been disclosed.