It has almost been a year since that sad day when the bell rang at Athabasca School for the last time. The children have all moved on and integrated into other schools, however the school property remains. As a child, I attended Athabasca for nine years, and it has made me sad to see the school abandoned. Today it still stands vacant, with nature slowly taking over the play structures and basketball courts that were enjoyed by kids not more than a year ago.
When the school closed last year, I predicted in an earlier post that Athabasca School would probably be torn down to build condos, or perhaps apartment buildings. It certainly looked that way, at least until recently.
It seems that a proposal has been made to turn the former Athabasca School site into a religious institution! I must admit that I was more than slightly surprised. I was almost certain that Athabasca School, a large piece of property in a desireable neighbourhood, would be snatched up by condo developers sooner then you could say “Regina has a rental housing crisis that desperately needs to be dealt with.” Recently, an open house was held regarding the proposed religious institution, and two of our LCA execs, Amy Mader and Lily Tingley attended. Here is what they observed:
I went to the open house, and was most interested in what the City planners didn’t know, as opposed to what they did know. Apparently there was a Request for Proposals by Regina Public Schools and more than one proposal was received, but the City planner didn’t know how many or what criteria they were assessed against. Thus, the “proposal” of the Sihk temple is a done deal, and the City is just working on making it happen.
I think I’m fine with it, however it is hard to assess without knowing details of the other applicants. Another issue I have (besides the general ignorance of the City planner) is that my house did not receive a mailout with the details of the applicant’s proposal. The City Planner said that policy requires houses in the immediate area (70 metres) to be sent mailouts, but since this development is “so significant”, they expanded that to 140 metres. Although I am further than 140 metres (perhaps 141 metres), I can see Athabasca School from my house, and am a little distressed that 140 metres is considered a sufficient radius for notification of such a significant change in use of a school facility – which in many regards is the focal point for the entire neighbourhood.
In the gym section of the building, the Sikh Society will be converting this area to a worship center – a Sikh Temple. We were informed that during their regular worship sessions, their patrons use floor mats, therefore there would be no renovations involving the installation of seats and the like.
In the smaller rooms located on the first floor, the Sikh Society will use these mainly as classrooms for activities for families, youth, elders, etc. It is possible that they may convert one of the rooms to a kitchen and dining area.
There are several classrooms on this level, and to date the Society does not have any exotic plans to renovate this area. In the future, they do see using the space to house their priest and other staff as required.
The space directly south of the main entrance will be prepared to add parking spaces as required by the City of Regina bylaws. The playground equipment currently occupying that area will be moved to the west end of the school grounds. The Society intends to maintain the total external property as green space wherever that is allowed.
Their current facility is on north Lewvan (across from the old Empiringham’s building), and they have outgrown this building.
The Society indicated that they would definitely be seeking to open the doors to others who may be interested in renting space, and are willing/want to participate in any local community events.
It is important to mention that renters of the facility would not be permitted to bring in alcohol or meat and smoking is not permitted.
It is noted that there is a City of Regina sign outside of Athabasca School notifying the public that there is an application in place to convert the space from educational institution to a religious institution.
Apparently, there were several proposals for the purchase of the building and school grounds, and the application by the Sikh community was accepted.
So, in general it seems like mostly good news to me. The Sikh Society of Regina made a proposal for a relgious institution, and it was accepted by the city. The building will be renovated to suit the needs of the Sikh Society, and for the most part the outside will be kept as a greenspace for the public to enjoy. The Sikh society is willing to rent out facility space, and participate in community events as well! The Sikh temple thus has the potential to become a community hub, a space where we as a community association could potentially run programs.
The only downside to the whole situation, was what Amy observed. There seems to be a definite lack of communication between the city and communities, and the LCA has found this to be evident in more than just this situation. The fact that several bids were put up for the Athabasca site is information that perhaps the community should have been made aware of. Nevertheless, I think that the addition of this religious institution will be a splendid addition to our neighbourhood, and build community ties better than condos ever could. I will be sure to keep you updated as this project moves on.