Redevelopment plans for Davisville Junior Public School property on Millwood Road have been put on hold after the education ministry froze all Toronto District School Board capital building projects.
A report on Davisville’s future was to be debated at an October meeting of the board, but it was removed from the agenda as trustees await further direction from the ministry, St. Paul’s trustee Shelley Laskin said.
“We’re in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment,” she said.
The school community had been planning to create a larger facility with a residential development on the site to pay for it. But that was placed on hold in early October when the ministry told the board via a letter that no pending capital building projects would receive approvals until further notice.
The strongly worded letter, from the assistant deputy minister of education, cited the board’s “significant risk” of not eliminating its capital deficit by 2012–13 as a catalyst for the spending freeze. The ministry also admonished the board for a reported $10 million in cost overruns related to the $21.3 million-dollar redevelopment of the Nelson Mandela Park Public School in Regent Park, as well as disappointing revenues resulting from the board’s ongoing efforts to sell surplus properties.
Laskin said the freeze won’t have an immediate effect on planning for Davisville, which is “at minimum” four years away from shovels in the ground. The next step — seeking out development partners — is 18-24 months in the future, she said. “It’s not going to start tomorrow.”
Laskin called the ministry’s stance excessively punitive and puzzling.
“I don’t understand their outrage over Nelson Mandela [Park Public School],” Laskin said. “It’s a deep retrofit of a 100-year-old heritage building … that has between $6 million and $11 million overspent due to unforeseen construction issues,” she said. “And that’s why we’re all up in arms?”
The ministry took this step after the board failed both to sufficiently explain why the Nelson Mandela project experienced cost overruns and to outline clear steps it was taking to address the capital deficit, now just under $50 million, ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler said in an email to the Town Crier.
In the letter sent to the board, the ministry said it is also requiring the board to “demonstrate that it has the necessary controls firmly in place to prevent future cost over-runs.”
The Davisville community has informed Laskin a freeze on planning any longer than three months is not acceptable. On that, she has no imminent answer for them.
“We just don’t know how long it’s for,” she said.
A MASTER PLAN FOR DAVISVILLE
The plan that was to be presented at October’s board meeting are a series of agreed-upon conditions and restrictions from the Local School Community Design Team. A summary of their recommendations:
-3‐storey integrated school and residential development on Davisville Avenue
-Mid‐rise residential development (7‐12 storeys) along Davisville Avenue
-Playground, field and open space along Millwood Road
-School‐only access lane along east edge of the site with underground school parking
-A key requirement in the plan is to have the current school remain operational during the entire build.
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