New Brunswick

MH Renaissance Inc. group feels snubbed over former Moncton High building

The group that dedicated itself to saving the former Moncton High School building and turning it into an arts and cultural centre feels its been shut out of the project.
The 82 year old Gothic-style building closed in 2015, when a new school was built on the outskirts of the city. (Karin Reid-LeBlanc/CBC News)

The group that dedicated itself to saving the former Moncton High School building, turning it into an arts and cultural centre feels it's been shut out of the project.

MH Renaissance Inc. worked for three-and-a-half years to save the building and was initially pleased when the province announced in August it would be sold to Heritage Developments for $1 million. 

A government press release, dated Aug. 1 states, "the developer has committed to preserving the architectural elements of the building and to leasing cultural spaces within, such as the gymnasium and the auditorium, to non-profit arts and culture organizations. They will partner with MH Renaissance Inc. to renovate the building."

But MH Renaissance Inc. president Dennis Cochrane says so far, that hasn't happened.

Dennis Cochrane, president of MH Renaissance Inc., says the group feels left out of the redeveopment of the former Moncton High School. ((CBC))
"At this point in time a little bit to the surprise of the committee we haven't been invited to be part of the redevelopment project," said Cochrane.

Cochrane said Heritage Developments has a good track record of redeveloping heritage buildings including the Capitol Theatre, Heritage Court, Marven's Place, the Atlantic Lottery Corp. headquarters in Moncton, and Ganong Place in St. Stephen.

MH Renaissance was looking forward to being part of the MHS project.

Disbanding considered

"It would have been expected I think by the public and our committee that we would have been invited to be part of that redevelopment project particularly the part of the building that has the theatre, the old gym, the new gym — that part and we think most people accepted our vision of what that would become a performing arts centre in Greater Moncton," he said.

Cochrane said the group even considered disbanding.

"We had a discussion about that a couple of weeks ago and this is after making a couple of overtures to Heritage Development to get clarification as to what they thought they did or did not want us to do and we've decided to just sit tight," he said.

Heritage Development has asked the city to rezone the land from community use to mixed use, allowing for commercial tenants like a call centre. The former high school currently has about 100 parking spaces, but the new owner is requesting the addition of 351 stalls to the lot adjoining the school property, and the creation of a 559 space parking lot further down Church Street on the school's former football field.

A new entrance is being planned for the north side of the former Moncton High School building. The commercial areas will have separate entrances. (Submitted )

Moncton's planning advisory committee voted against the extra parking on Oct. 25, and that information will be forwarded to city council. A public hearing to consider written objections to the proposed rezoning changes will be held on Nov. 6.

Meanwhile, Cochrane is still holding out hope his group will be asked to take part in transforming the 82-year-old building.

Heritage Development did not return CBC's request for comment.