Province requests new Moncton High proposals

The New Brunswick government is again seeking proposals from developers who want to purchase and find a new use for the 77-year-old Moncton High School.

Infrastructure Minister Claude Williams says decision will be made in 2013

The New Brunswick government is again seeking proposals from developers who want to purchase and find a new use for the 77-year-old Moncton High School.

The provincial government issued a request for proposals in April for developers to come up with a new plan for the building. But Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claude Williams said on Thursday only one developer sent in a proposal to the provincial government.

The provincial government is requesting more development proposals for Moncton High. (CBC)

Williams told the legislature the bid from Toronto-based OMH Holdings Inc. did not meet the provincial government’s criteria, so they are re-opening the proposal process.

The infrastructure minister did not say what was wrong with the one bid or even what the proposal was for the school. A departmental spokesperson said those plans are confidential.

Coun. Paulette Thériault, a member of the city's heritage committee, said she believes this is a temporary delay and she is confident the provincial government will find a new use for the building.

"I still continue to believe in it, I still believe that we can do this," she said.

Liberal MLA Chris Collins, who represents the riding where the school is located, said he is worried the second request for proposals is a delaying tactic that may result in the school being demolished instead of renovated.

"The future of that beautiful building in my riding is at stake at this point," he said.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claude Williams said the only proposal to redevelop Moncton High did not meet the province's criteria.

The provincial government now expects to have a decision on the building’s future in 2013. It will be late 2014 before any developer will be able to take over the building, according to Williams.

The Gothic-style stone building, including the 1,200-seat theatre, must be preserved, according to the department.

The Department of Education announced in 2010 that a new school would be built after a series of safety problems forced students out of the school two years ago.

The provincial government has invested $2 million in repairs to make Moncton High safe as the new school is being constructed.

The new school is being built on the outskirts of the city near the Royal Oaks golf course, which has caused a significant controversy in the city.

Predictable setback

Nicolas Lambert is part of a group trying to save the school since it's the only high school in the downtown. He said he thinks there is no interest from the private sector because it's impossible to convert an old school into a profitable business venture.

"It's not a money-making opportunity and they're trying to turn this into a money making opportunity and it's not working," he said.

He said he thinks it is impossible for the private sector to repurpose the building without a huge amount of tax dollars.

Lambert said the provincial government should have predicted this latest setback.

"I think they'll find another excuse to put this off but I think they have to stop and realize that what's best for the city is best for the taxpayers and putting students to the periphery of the city to a remote location is not good for anyone," he said.