New Brunswick

U-Haul makes pitch for former Moncton High building

The debate over what to do with the former Moncton High School building is ramping up, but city council has still only received one official proposal so far. But U-Haul says it's also interested in the building for a self-storage centre and retail space.

Moncton City Council is still waiting on staff report on cultural centre proposal, says Paulette Theriault

An artist's drawing showing what the former Moncton High building may look like if a proposal by MH Renaissance Inc. is accepted. City Council delayed a vote on whether to accept the plan in principal, or not, on Tuesday. (CBC)

The debate over what to do with the former Moncton High School building is ramping up, but city council has still only received one official proposal so far.

MH Renaissance Inc. has proposed to turn the former school into a large cultural centre, including a potential new location for the Moncton Public Library.

But U-Haul Canada says it's also interested in the building for a self-storage centre and retail space, though Coun. Paulette Theriault says the city has not seen that proposal yet and could not comment.

But the Ward 1 councillor says she supports the MH Renaissance plan, known as MH35, is "200 per cent," even though council is still waiting on city staff's evaluation before council can put the plan to a vote.

"I'm hoping that the MH35 proposal will be moving forward quite soon so that we can really get to work on this and answer the questions the citizens have been asking," she said.

Theriault says council has been waiting on staff's input on the project for many months and that she's been following plans for the future of the school closely since she was first elected

While she supports the proposal, she admits that not everyone supports the plan.

"It's mixed. Some citizens say 'yes' and others are opposed to it."

But Theriault is confident council will find a way to move the project forward.

U-Haul also has expressed interest in the building

While, the city has yet to receive anything official from U-Haul, the company may be dealing directly with the province, who owns the former school building, said Theriault.

But she said the province has committed to consult with the city before it decides what to do with the building.

Jake Spelic is the area district vice president for U-Haul Canada and says its plan for a self-storage centre in the 80-year-old building would protect its character and facade. 

I want to stress that our intention is to operate as a self-storage facility with truck rental as an accessory use.- Jake Spelic, area district vice president for U-Haul Canada

"We believe we have a solid repurpose for it," he said.

If the plan goes ahead, Spelic says the extra traffic generated by the operation will be minor.

He said when the building was a school there was some concern about traffic including school buses.

"I want to stress that our intention is to operate as a self-storage facility with truck rental as an accessory use," he said.

"People are going to need some means of transportation, truck wise, to move in and out of a storage facilities and we want to provide that with possibly 10 to 12 cargo vans, pick-up trucks. Nothing larger than what you'd see in a neighbourhood, community driveway." 

Besides preserving the exterior architecture, Spelic said the company would also re-landscape the grounds.

He also said there is no intention to disturb the auditorium and gymnasium which it plans to leave for community uses, but he said U-Haul would work with another company or group to manage that part of the building if its proposal is successful.

U-Haul has other facilities in North American cities that it rents to arts groups for everything from music rehearsal space to rooms used for shooting movies.

He says the operation would bring jobs to Moncton, but he wouldn't say how many.

Consultant not in favour of moving public library

Meanwhile, a private library consultant has some concerns about using the former Moncton HIgh building as a public library.

Ken Roberts wrote a letter to library officials stating that while he is sympathetic to any group that wishes to preserve the school to serve the community, he doesn't think the space is suited to a library for a number of reasons

Roberts says his concerns include increased traffic in the neighbourhood, the cost of renovating the old school to make it function as a library and the fact the library would be below grade.

He worries that the building's low elevation would make it prone to flooding and hard to get into in winter for people in wheelchairs or with strollers.

Roberts says he's consulted on more than 30 library building projects and also suggests many can easily go over way over budget once renovations begin.

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