Private school, dormitories approved for SCITS building

Tara Jeffrey

The revitalization of Sarnia’s historic SCITS building has taken another step forward.

“I think this is a massive win for us,” Coun. Brian White said after city council approved planning and rezoning changes.

Plans for the Wellington Street building include a private school, daycare, commercial space and student dormitories.

The dorms would house students attending the school, as well as some some International students from Lambton College.

“I believe strongly that this addresses various needs we have in our community; obviously student housing alone is a considerable issue,” White said.

Toronto-area developer Rakesh Gupta, who purchased the 9.2-acre property in 2021, requested an amendment to change the land designation from ‘institutional’ to ‘apartment residential.’

The former high school building is expected to house 253 students, 86 daycare spots, and create 40 new jobs, according to a report from Monteith Brown Planning Consultants.

The 100-year-old school site has been empty since it closed in 2019, prompting concern from some neighbours about security and vandalism.

James Gandier of Hughes Intelligence Canada said the company has been working with Gupta “since day one” to ensure site security, which includes regular patrols and live video feeds.

“After hearing his vision and what he wants to do with the property, we fully endorse what he has in store for it, and we’re quite excited to work in the future with him,” he said.

The site is a focal point of Mitton Village, where years of efforts to revitalize the area are finally starting to payoff, White said, pointing to ongoing engagement between developers and neighbours, businesses, and members of the Mitton Village Community Development Advisory Committee.

“I’ve got to be honest, this is a breath of fresh air to have a group of investors who are so committed to reaching out,” he said, adding the developers even attended a recent community BBQ.

“Five years ago we struck this committee because of the impending closure of the high school and knowing we still maintained possession of a derelict hospital … Those issues appear to be resolving very quickly and I believe that Mitton Village is going to be a very different place in a couple of years.”