HWDSB Trustee Judith Bishop explains the process by which the Board settled on the Crestwood site as the preferred location for a new Education Centre.
By Judith Bishop
Published February 02, 2012
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) began studying its present four administrative buildings, a total of over 192,000 square feet, in 2007.
The motivation for a new education centre was that administrative functions were spread out at Memorial Ancaster, Crestwood, Maple Lane and the Education Centre; a legacy of amalgamation of the Wentworth and Hamilton Boards.
All these buildings are in need of renovation as well as needing $28.7 million in repairs. None completely meet our needs.
There were community consultations and the Board heard clearly that staying in the downtown core was seen as important. Preliminary work established that renovation and an addition to the present education centre would cost $55 million, funds the Board did not have.
There was an attempt to work on a project with McMaster University and the City (for Public Health). The HWDSB put together a business plan, which involved a joint-use facility with McMaster and Public health on the present Education Centre site, with commercial space.
HWDSB required Ministry of Education approval of this business plan to move ahead, as it does for any education centre project, but it was not forthcoming.
We were told that we were an educational organization, not a leasing or commercial development agency, and that the scope was beyond our expertise. (Vancouver School Board built an education centre in this manner which has proved self-sustaining). So this project died.
In 2009, the Board set out to make sure that it understood what its internal stakeholders required in an education centre, developing a visioning document, and from this a functional view including adequate parking and meeting space, and all departments in one building.
It became clear that the sale of the current Education Centre land was an important component in any business plan for the new Education centre.
About seven downtown properties were then explored, as well as other properties elsewhere.
Properties that were small, entailing the building of many floors, were discarded because of the additional cost of such buildings.
From this process, the West Harbour lands were seen as the most desirable as there was sufficient space for our requirements and it could help down-town renewal. However, the expense to clean up the environmental concerns placed this outside the financial capability of the Board.
So the property that met the Board's needs became the Crestwood site, which the Board already owns, and which could be developed.
The business plan for this requires the sale of the Education Centre and another administrative site, and using operational savings, calculated at $1.3 million a year, to finance the remaining portion of a $31.6 million, 113 square foot building.
With these constraints, the building at Crestwood (close to a large retail property and already used as a school on land owned by the Board) is the most affordable to build to the requirements needed.
It has been noted that light rail plans include a link to Limeridge Mall nearby; accessibility was also one of the requirements that the Board was looking for.
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