The prospects are looking brighter for the 97-year-old vacant SCITS building.
Vision Nursing & Rest Home has informed the Lambton Kent District School Board it is interested in negotiating a purchase of the historic property.
“I want the community to know that something positive is in the works,” said Heather Martin. “And I want to engage the community in the process.”
Vision is located at 229 Wellington St., next door to the 9.2-acre school property in the city’s south end. If the non-profit nursing home does strike a deal with the school board, the original 1922 building has the potential of being converted into as many as 60 housing units, Martin said.
Those units could be rental, condos, life-lease, or a combination. Space for complementary businesses might be possible as well, she said.
“No decisions have been made. We respect that the public could have some really great ideas that we haven’t even thought of yet.”
Martin said she sees redevelopment of SCITS as a community project, one that would require assistance from the city, help with financing, and possibly public fundraising.
“We’re going to dig deep,” she said. “There are many methods of financing, like selling units prior to construction, perhaps grants, or community sponsors.”
Vision already has preliminary drawings and anticipates the creation of a separate company and board of directors to take on the project. But first, the non-profit must negotiate a price with the school board.
Provincial law requires the board to offer surplus property to a variety of preferred agencies, including government-funded non-profit health-care facilities like Vision. That offer went out Sept. 1 for SCITS and lasts 90 days.
If any preferred agencies express interest during that time, real estate negotiations are scheduled for the subsequent 90 days.
The board and the agency must each get appraisals to start the ball rolling, said Martin.
“I don’t believe there’s any other group that has expressed interest other than us.”
A surplus school property does not go on the open market until after all preferred agencies have passed on it.