It’s a community initiative.

While it may be the end of an era for Lorne Avenue Public School’s building, it’s the beginning of a new one for a future park and residential area.

City staff held a community meeting about Lorne Avenue’s future at the Boyle Community Centre.

About 30 Residents created ideas for the plan in workshops at the meeting. They used markers, sticky notes, and the information they just received to create an ideal future for the park.

Hands on a table with sticky notes and markers to discuss the park plans for Lorne Avenue.
One of the six groups discussing park and housing plans. Photo by Emily Stewart.

Darlene Boyce, who has lived in the area for 30 years, thinks the future development is for the best. “I don’t see what they can do with the building at this point that would fit within the neighbourhood.”

A similar community meeting was held in 2015. Designs from that meeting were plastered on the walls. However, they were created with the idea that the school’s building would stay.

Ward 4 Councillor Jesse Helmer said he felt his constituents are able to see what park options look like without the building.
“When the building was supposed to be retained, it didn’t allow for the park to come to Lorne Ave and to English,” he explained.

Helmer also said since residents know the building will be demolished for sure, they are supportive of the current plan.

London City Council approved demolition in a 12-0 vote, with councillors Tanya Park, Jared Zaifman, and Harold Usher absent.

Why a park and residential infill?

Michael Tomazincic, manager of current planning manager for the City of London, explained that the city purchased the Lorne Avenue Public School building. The city plans to take down the building on the English Street and Lorne Ave intersection and develop a residential infill site over where the parking lot is currently.

A city staff member talking to Lorne Ave residents about previous park suggestions in the area.
City staff talked to residents about about past and present Lorne Ave park plans. Photo by Emily Stewart

“We’ve identified that as the best place for the park because of all the street frontage, so there [are] eyes on the street and people can interact with what’s going on in the park,” Tomazinic explained. He added that before the school’s closure, school grounds were used as a park.

Park & Housing Ideas

Tomazincic also said that at the 2015 meeting, residents expressed interest in basketball and ball hockey areas, along with benches, for the park.

Residents who attended the event worked through activity books listing the following buildings: townhouses, single-detached homes, semi-detached homes, low-rise apartments, and duplexes. Attendees had to keep that in mind when building an ideal park for the area.

Tomanizic explained the housing options are consistent with the area’s London Plan.

Possible repeat?

Some are concerned whether or not the park will be a success with the community. William Komer, the executive director of Campus Creative, was at the meeting and talking to one of the groups. He had wanted to purchase the Lorne Ave P.S. building and use it as a community centre, but the city decided to tear down the building for a park instead.

Komer said he’s not sure how long it would take for the park to develop after the residential infill, because of what happened with similar plans for the Sherwood Forest Public School area.

“There’s still no park because they haven’t sold the lots for the houses.”

The plans continue! Photo by Emily Stewart

He also said that he’s concerned the Lorne and English area will also face the same fate. “If the lots aren’t sold, will there be a park, and how long will the wait [be]?”

Jeff Lewis is a four-year Lorne Avenue neighbour. He had mixed feelings and also didn’t want the park in the community to face similar issues to Sherwood Forest.

“I think if it’s done properly, people can respect it and enjoy it,” Lewis said, “I don’t think the development should be contingent on the sale of the property.”

Instead, he wants to see the city first develop the park, then “reimburse the sale after.”

What’s next for Lorne Ave P.S.?

Helmer recommends visiting his website for the latest updates.

An archaeological assessment is next on the agenda, as the building’s part of the Old East Heritage Conservation District. The building’s demolition could start October 2017.

Feature photo by Emily Stewart

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