Residents getting used to green space at former school

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Slow and steady wins the race?

It’s been almost three years since the city took possession of Sherwood Forest elementary school after buying it from the school board, and two years since the structure was demolished.

But there’s no sign of the construction that was to transform the former school grounds into a model for community-focused residential infill development.

City staff say the timeline is reasonable, but one former politician is worried his neighbours may forget that construction is in store.

“We’ve got lots of people enjoying the open space. People might not remember that part of it is designated for development, and be really upset when a development takes place,” said Sandy Levin, the ex-city councillor who heads the Orchard Park Sherwood Forest Ratepayers.

The plan is to include a small park, plus single-family homes and townhouses, on the former school site. The city’s already outlined and zoned the space. Now they just need a developer to do it.

Levin said he’s already heard from local residents looking to downsize, wondering when the new homes will be ready.

But last summer’s hunt for builders didn’t go so well. Only one submission came in, and it didn’t meet the guidelines. Developers balked at stringent city requirements, including years of financial documents, said the city’s manager of current planning, Michael Tomazincic.

The goal was to make sure whoever took on the project could see it through. But it scared off builders.

Now, the city is taking a new tack, issuing a request for qualification instead.

Tomazincic said he’s confident this strategy will work, noting the established neighbourhood is very attractive. “I can’t see why a developer wouldn’t jump at the opportunity,” he said.

Pre-approved zoning amendments are another bonus, he said.

And Tomazincic said two years is a reasonable timeframe. “But it would be nice to put a bow on this soon,” he said.

Coun. Phil Squire, whose ward takes in the site at 7 Annadale Dr., said he’s more concerned with the final product than how long it takes.

“You will get less proposals because of the limitations on what you can do, however you’ll get people who are prepared to do it who are creative and I think that’s what we’re looking for,” he said.

Levin said residents were happy to see the city so committed.

“It would be nice if it happened more quickly, but hey, it’s a big city with lots of big projects . . . Not every­body’s project can be first.” 

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