St. Vincent's High School

A plan by the Roman Catholic diocese of Saint John to put mixed-income housing in its former girls' school, St. Vincent's, is being well-received in the city. (Courtesy of St. Vincent's Alumnae Association)

A proposal by the Roman Catholic diocese of Saint John to turn a long-vacant school into a mixed-income housing project is drawing praise from one of its alumnae.

Marilyn Upton, who was the vice-principal of St. Vincent's High School when its doors closed in 2002, says it's been sad to see it sit empty for so long.

"It needed to be put to good use. And what could be a better use than providing housing in the uptown area?"

St. Vincent's, located on Cliff Street, first opened in 1919 as a school for boys, then turned into a Catholic girls' school in 1954.

Upton, who was also a teacher and student there, says she has many fond memories of the school.

"As a student I think there was a sense of family, friends, when I was there in the 60s. But also just a friendliness — approachable teachers, as well the students became very open to each other you were able to relax in your classrooms, you were not under any kind of stress, and as a teacher, just watching the students develop and grow."

The mixed-income housing proposal is still in its early stages, but Upton says it's an idea she supports, because it would lead to more housing in the uptown area.

She says some changes would have to be made to the building, but its design could work as apartments.

A soon-to-expire federal-provincial program has brought a boom in mixed income housing developments to Saint John over the past three or four years.

The Affordable Rental Housing Program is largely responsible for hundreds of mixed income units built in the city, including the Abbey St. Andrew development on Charlotte Street, and Father Eugene O'Leary seniors complex on Loch Lomond Road.

There have also been expansions to two city housing co-ops, and another development, Vimy Estates, is on the books for the city's north end. It will be a private development with market-rent apartments alongside government subsidized units.