Province considered buying back former Moncton High School

·2 min read
The school at the corner of Church Street and Mountain Road closed in 2015. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
The school at the corner of Church Street and Mountain Road closed in 2015. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

The New Brunswick government considered, but ultimately opted against, buying back the former Moncton High School building to reopen it as a school.

The landmark building on Church Street closed in 2015, and the property was later sold to a company that intended to convert it to leasable commercial space.

Morgan Bell, a spokesperson for the province's education department, confirmed it considered "reclaiming" the building for a school.

"However, due to the significant amount of investment that would be needed to meet current educational facilities standards, this is not a viable option," Bell said in an email.

Bell didn't answer questions about when the idea was considered or the estimated cost.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

CBC News asked the province about whether it had considered the idea as Anglophone East School District faces a space crunch. The district says several of its Moncton-area schools are over capacity.

Enrolment is projected to grow by more than 3,700 students by 2028 — reaching 22,097. District officials say that would equate to needing nine more schools.

The Gothic revival-style stone building was constructed in 1934 and opened the following year.

2009 architect's report estimated it would cost $48 million to fix the school.

Instead, the province built a new school with the same name at the city's northern edge. It was a controversial decision that continues to come up when new school locations are discussed.

The province sold the heritage building and its football field to Heritage Developments Ltd. for $1 million in 2018.

The company, a Moncton firm that restored historic properties like the Capitol Theatre and Marvens Place, was expected to redevelop the building to lease it as commercial space.

The building has remained largely vacant since it closed as a school. Its gym and 1,300-seat theatre temporarily served as a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

Heritage Developments received city council approval in 2019 to turn the school's former sports field along Wheeler Boulevard into a 562-space parking lot.

Shane Magee/CBC News
Shane Magee/CBC News

Ross Carpenter, then-vice president of operations for Heritage Developments, told reporters the company needed the parking spaces as part of its plan to lease the building.

However, the parking lot has yet to be constructed.

Property records show a conditional rezoning agreement for the field was only signed last fall by Carpenter, now president of the company, and Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold.

In 2018, a Heritage Developments official said it expected to spend about $10 million fixing the building. The following year, Carpenter told reporters renovations were going well.

"The amount of asbestos that they thought was there was less," Carpenter said.

Isabelle LeBlanc, a spokesperson for the City of Moncton, says the city issued building permits in 2019 for sprinkler upgrades, washroom upgrades and masonry repairs. In 2021, a permit was issued for life-safety upgrades in the auditorium and to install a ramp.

Heritage did not return a request for comment.