Former Moncton High field is turning into a 562-space parking lot
The parking lot plan had been opposed by some residents who wanted the green space to remain
Moncton council unanimously approved the design of a 562-space parking lot to replace the former Moncton High School sports field on Monday evening.
The parking lot plan was opposed by residents of the area who wanted the green space to remain next to the downtown building.
The approval of the design was a requirement of the city's 2017 rezoning of the property owned by Heritage Developments Ltd.
"Now we get to work, get the building ready, ready for tenants," Ross Carpenter, the vice president of operations for Heritage Developments, told reporters after the council vote.
The company with a history of repurposing old properties in Moncton bought the school and field from the provincial government for $1 million.
In the plan, the former school's 1,300-seat theatre will become a community arts centre.
Carpenter said the parking lot will be used to attract tenants to the building. He wouldn't say who the tenants might be and suggested it could take several years to fully occupy the office space.
The parking spaces on the sports field will be added in phases after Heritage builds 265 parking spaces beside the school where there is now a basketball court and school bus turnaround area.
Bill Budd, the city's director of planning, told council it would likely be "some time" before the field becomes a parking lot.
The plan put forward by Heritage Developments to the sports field was opposed by residents of the area, who wanted the green space to remain.
Hundreds of people signed a petition against the plan. And council chambers were packed in November 2017 when the city approved rezoning the land.
Residents expressed concerns about the loss of green space and more traffic in the neighbourhood.
About 25 people attended a consultation meeting about the parking lot design in December 2018.
A staff report to council states those who attended the meeting worried a small portion of Heritage's land adjacent to Fernand Landry Street could become another entrance to the parking lot.
A condition of the 2017 rezoning was that the only parking lot entrance would be off Church Street.
Budd said changing that condition would require council to revisit the issue.
Coun. Shawn Crossman suggested Heritage donate the small parcel to the city for use as a community garden.
Carpenter told reporters the company doesn't want to limit its future options.
"If things go really well, you might see office buildings up on that section of land," Carpenter said.
Carpenter said renovations at the former school, an iconic Gothic Revival-style stone building, have been going well with some "good surprises."
"The amount of asbestos that they thought was there was less," Carpenter said.
"I'm a heritage buff, so just being inside an old historic property is fun."
He said the work is still in the early stages as they install a sprinkler system and new electrical entrance.
Heritage restored several historic properties in the city, including the Capitol Theatre, Heritage Court, Marvens Place and the Atlantic Lottery Corp. headquarters.
Moncton High School closed in 2015 when a replacement school of the same name opened on the outskirts of the city near the Royal Oaks golf course.