Nova Scotia

Sydney's Cornwallis School transformed into apartments

A former elementary school, declared surplus and closed in 2012, has been transformed into 16 brand-new, high quality apartments, aimed at the seniors' market.

The building has been completely transformed into a seniors apartment complex.

The former school has been converted to 16 apartments. (George Mortimer/CBC)

The thousands of pupils who passed through Cornwallis Elementary School in Sydney over its 54 years probably wouldn't recognize the place now.

It's been completely transformed into a seniors apartment complex.

The Primary to Grade 3 school opened in 1958. In a few short years, it was doubled in size to accommodate Sydney's contribution to the baby boom.

In 2012, it was closed because of declining enrolment.

Demand for seniors' housing

Contractor Doug Saunders holds a photo of Cornwallis School before his transformation. (George Mortimer/CBC)

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality sold it to local contractor Doug Saunders who says he saw an opportunity to create housing for the seniors' market.

"As people get older, it's hard to keep up with lawn care, snow removal, maintenance on the building, on your home," he said.

"It makes more sense to get into a place where it's all taken care of and you don't have to worry about that."

Saunders spent $1.5 million on the project.

'Returning to our roots'

A hallway in the apartment building, once a school corridor. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Sharon MacNeil and her husband Greg have just moved in. She says, for them, it was like moving back to where their life together all began, on Cornwallis Street, many years ago.

"When my husband and I got married back in 1970, we actually lived in a basement apartment about two or three houses up the road from here.

"So we are returning to our roots. It's a beautiful area. It's close to everything. It has all of the things that we need." 

Sharon and Greg MacNeil in their new apartment. (George Mortimer/CBC)

There are 16 units in the building, each with new appliances, in-floor heating, a washer/dryer and even a balcony.

Saunders expects that all of the units will be rented within the next few weeks. He says he's moving on to other projects but is keeping his eye open for other buildings to renovate for the seniors market.

Saunders has named Cornwallis School, Maryton Place, in memory of his late mother Mary.