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May. 20, 2022 | Friday
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Willowbank to sell historic former Laura Secord school property
Willowbank’s vice-chair John Scott says selling the unused property is the best option for the school. (Richard Harley)

The Willowbank School of Restoration Arts is preparing to sell the historic former Laura Secord school property in Queenston.

Board vice-chair John Scott has been helping lead the way to the sale, and says it’s a natural step for the school, which doesn’t make use of the surplus property.

He said it has nothing to do with Willowbank being in danger of closing.

“Willowbank is a very, very strong operating school,” he said.

“We've been analyzing Willowbank and what it needs to operate and be sustainable in the long-term. And we've spent six or seven months looking at it, several people,” he said.

“We said, 'What do we need, what don't we need?' and you come down to the fact that that particular school is not required. We basically don't use it," he told The Lake Report.

"It needs to be maintained and the resources we have we want to dedicate towards the operation of the (Willowbank) school, so it makes no sense for us to continue it and it makes all kinds of good sense for somebody else to have it."

He wants whoever takes it over to "do something to the benefit of Queenston. I don't know what that would be, but that's what I think will happen.”

He said 96 per cent of the school’s graduates are in demand.

"We have people on Parliament Hill working on the restoration there. Willowbank is a jewel. Everybody in this area should be very proud of it.”

He said he is unaware what the value of the estimated one-acre property is right now, but that the board will be in discussions with commercial agents in the coming weeks.

The property does have heritage value, especially the original part of the school built in 1906, he said.

“It's structurally sound and it has got a heritage designation. And it really is really quite something. The addition of 1952, I'm not sure. I don't know if there's any historic value there but there sure as heck is to that main structure that's towards the riverside.”

He said the school would not be adding any stipulations to the sale.

“Nor would we get into trying to suggest anything to anybody. We're not going to steer it one way or another. We're not going to try to rezone it. We'll just kind of put it out there and see what comes to us,” Scott said.

He said he believes the sale is “to the benefit of everybody, to have something down there that somebody's using.”

“It's to the benefit of Willowbank to not have to maintain a building that is basically taking resources away from the school, so it's actually a very positive story in my mind.”

He said Willowbank isn’t sure what the money will go to yet, but noted there is a “bit of a mortgage” on the Laura Secord property. That mortgage will have to be retired.

“And then any funds over and above that we put into an endowment fund and the endowment fund would be for sustaining the school over the long-term,” Scott said.

"We're not in trouble. Obviously, we're not going to take that money and operate. We're going to invest that money and if there is a lot of money left, we'll invest in and take the earnings off that money and use it for the school.”