City council will vote Wednesday whether to designate King George school as a heritage property — a decision that threatens to waylay plans to build a high school there.
A heritage designation would mean that the board has to preserve any of the elements deemed to be historic at the closed elementary school at 77 Gage Ave. N.
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The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) plans to tear down King George and nearby Parkview Secondary School, as well as the former Scott Park high school site nearby, to build a new $32-million, 1,250-student high school.
But Coun. Bob Morrow of Ward 3 will introduce a motion at Wednesday’s council meeting to start the process of giving it a heritage designation. Morrow has concerns about the current plans for the high school.
“My thought is we have to work together on some other possibilities,” he said.
King George was built in 1912 and is an example of Edwardian classicism architecture. Prominent local architects Stewart and Witton designed it.
Morrow’s motion directs staff to do a cultural heritage assessment of King George, and to expedite the process of getting it designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The city has already included the building on its list of properties of heritage interest, which means a 60-day wait to demolish it.
The board expected this to happen, chair Jessica Brennan said.
The HWDSB has already done its own heritage assessment to identify historically significant parts of the building.
As for the impact on the high school, “it will depend on what the designation ultimately means,” she said.
“If it’s a list of components we can work around, that’s one thing. If it’s more involved, that’s another thing.”
At Council Wednesday: A city sign, reptiles and LRT
The board’s first plan was to partner with the city on a joint high school and recreation centre on the Scott Park site, but the city turned that down.
Plan B was to build the high school on the site of King George and Parkview, and the parking lot on nearby Scott Park. The space is too small for a full-size football field, so the team would have to have games at a nearby school.
If King George can’t be demolished, she said, “we’ll find plan C and D and E,” she said. But “we’re really committed to a new north secondary school in that precinct.”
Brennan couldn’t say what the other plans might entail.
“We as a board have property there and could reconfigure, but that’s speculation at the moment.”
Morrow has concerns with the current plan, including the lack of space for a full football field. As for whether a designation would anger the school board, “I’m working beyond that point, and I think the solution is to be found beyond that point,” he said.
Also on Wednesday’s council agenda:
- Coun. Sam Merulla’s notice of motion to stop debating light rail transit at the council table until after the June 12 provincial election.
- A zoning bylaw amendment to allow an 11-storey condo tower at 85 Robinson St., despite some neighbourhood concerns.
- Amendments to a bylaw that would allow Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo to keep banned animals at its Barton Street East zoo. Little Ray’s plans to attend with supporters in tow.
- The decision to spend $230,000 on a gateway sign to the city.
CBC Hamilton reporter Samantha Craggs will tweet live from the meeting. Follow her at @SamCraggsCBC or in the window below.
The meeting starts at 5 p.m. at Hamilton city hall council chambers.