So, what’s happening at Lorne Ave. P.S.?
Let’s talk about the plan for the building, the potential alternatives, and what the community would like to see for Lorne Ave. P.S.
The building for a former elementary school in London’s Old East Village could see a new chapter.
Jo-Anne Bishop’s daughter was part of the last graduating class at Lorne Ave.
“Every time we pass the school, she talks about how much she misses Lorne Ave,” Bishop said, adding that her daughter especially misses the sense of community, “Everybody was a great big family. Now being in high school, with so many more students, she misses it. She really feels the difference.”
The school is significant to the Old East Village.
Clark Bryan, executive director of Aeolian Hall, said that London’s discussed Lorne Ave Public School’s longevity for at least 13 years.
“The difficulty with the future of this building has always been to try and find a very clear vision that can move forward without being deluded by other interests,” Bryan said.
The battle has been ongoing for quite some time.
Now, what are the plans?
The Corporate Services Committee unanimously approved city staff’s recommendation to demolish the building.
Ward 4 Councillor Jesse Helmer said that $3 million of the 2016 budget surplus will be used towards demolishing the vacant building. He said that his constituents wanted to see the school continue.
“That’s certainly my view on it too. It should have never been closed,” Helmer said. He added his ward is “updated” on city issues, including the building’s future. “People have different views about what could be done with that site.”
Graham Bailey, an urban regeneration planner, said the city plans to use the space for a park.
“The community lost a valuable resource when the school closed,” Bailey said, “The City owes it to the community to ensure that any future use is compatible with the community and the future user has the capability to ensure that the integrity of the building is maintained over the long term.”
But, what were some of the other proposals?
William Komer, the executive director of Campus Creative, wanted to turn the building into what he called “an intergenerational community centre.” The creative agency found out it is more cost-effective to repurpose the school.
“It just seemed odd that for less money than knocking it down, you could build a community centre. So why is the city even considering doing that?”
Komer requested delegation status, but it was denied in a tie vote during a Corporate Services Committee meeting.
Bryan said that Aeolian Hall had plans to take over the building, using it for the free afterschool music program, El Sistema Aeolian.
However, the organization decided to drop it. Bryan explained that there were issues with knowing how it was going to move forward. El Sistema practices in Bishop Cronyn Memorial Church .
Should the city keep the building?
Bryan would have like to see the building repurposed.
“It is an anchor for the community and one has to assume down the line that as the density of the core of the city starts to increase, we will need that property and need that school again.”
Bishop felt unsure of what she wanted for the building, but said OEV needs a green space. However, she also wanted to see the building repurposed.
“I don’t know. My heart just says I want to keep the school here. I want to keep this here so that someday we can have it back again. It was a great school.”
How can Londoners find out more?
Feature photo by Emily Stewart