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Donevan site up for sale

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The Durham District School Board is looking to sell the former Dr. F.J. Donevan Collegiate Institute on Harmony Road South, north of Olive Avenue. The Catholic school board and Durham College have taken a pass on purchasing the property, while the city is currently talking to its various departments to see if any are interested. If these three, along with the provincial and federal governments, take a pass on the property, it will be put on the open market.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Six years after its closure, the Durham District School Board (DDSB) is looking to sell the site of the former Dr. F.J. Donevan Collegiate Institute.

Built in 1957, the nearly 13.5-acre site at Harmony Road South and Olive Avenue sits in a prime location only a stone’s throw from Highway 401. According to Paul Ralph, Oshawa’s commissioner of development services, the site has already seen great interest from developers.

“I know that there is a lot of interest already in the development sector in that site because it’s a great site,” he says. “They’ve all got wind that it’s going through the pecking order so to speak, so there’s a lot of interest.”

Before the private sector can even think about buying the land, a series of public organizations get first crack, including other school boards and educational institutions, the city, the region, the province and federal government. This is per provincial legislation established in 1998 and it gives these organizations 90 days to make a decision to purchase the land at fair market value.

If none of these entities are interested in the site, it can go on the open market, as was the case of the nearby Harmony Public School, which was sold two years ago for $1.2 million.

According to Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) records, the assessed value for Donevan sits at approximately $5.25 million.

The Oshawa Express reached out to several of these organizations to gauge any possible interest in the site. Of those that were able to give definitive answers, the Durham Catholic District School Board and Durham College stated they have no interest in the site. UOIT was unable to confirm a stance and according to Ralph, the city is currently waiting for responses from their respective departments to see if any of them are interested in the site.

The recently completed Facility Needs Assessment, which looked at the city’s needs for parks, recreation and cultural buildings for the next several years, points to several new facilities that may need to be acquired in the future.

“Staff in parks services will be reviewing any needs against that study,” Ralph says.

According to the study, the city will need to acquire, at minimum, 40 hectares of parkland in order to accommodate the needs of future populations.

Ralph says he hopes to hear back prior to April 4, when the item will appear on the development services committee agenda.

Many Oshawa residents will be familiar with the process that closed Donevan, having just experienced the Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) process involved in the closing of Central Collegiate.

In 2010, DDSB voted to close Donevan and have the students redirected to Eastdale CVI.

According to a school board report, possible contamination exists from previous use of heating oil on the site. However, the levels are far below provincial standards.

Contamination from road salt also exists in levels above provincial standards.

Another issue may exist in the form of aspestos; while not checked during the board’s inspection, it is common in buildings of this age, the report reads.

Along with the selling process, the school board is also regulated on how they can spend the funds from selling the property.

Dollars from the sale are placed in a reserve, the majority of which (80 per cent) is earmarked for building repairs for schools that require it, and the remaining 20 per cent is designated for interiors, equipment and furnishings.

The money can not be used for expansion plans – however, an exemption can be requested from the province, and according to the DDSB report, that’s what they’re looking for.

Any money from the sale of Donevan will be going toward the acquisition of portables. According to Andrea Pidwerbecki, spokesperson with DDSB, it has not yet been decided where the portables will go.

As part of the plans to close Central, additional space was required at Eastdale to house the influx of students.

“The portables to be purchased are for the entire system, which could include a few for Eastdale or (R.S. McLaughlin) CVI. However, analysis is underway,” she says.

Currently, the former school site is only used by Durham police and the OPP for training purposes.