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Saturday, September 24, 2022
Parliament Oak for sale, ‘Here we go again,’ resident says
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The former Parliament Oak school site at 325 King St. is officially for sale – again.

“Who knows where this can end up at the end of the day,” Old Town resident and Preserve Our Special Town founder Alan Gordon said in an interview Wednesday.

“In some ways it’s good news and in some ways it’s, well, here we go again.”

Gordon's group was a vocal opponent of the Liberty Sites (3) Ltd.'s proposal for a 71-unit apartment building and a handful of semi-detached and single-family homes for the location.

Liberty Sites is selling the property through CBRE Group Inc., vice-president Steven Davidson confirmed with The Lake Report on Wednesday.

Davidson said Liberty Sites did not wish to divulge information to the media regarding the sale.

CBRE Group would not confirm the sale details but a source told The Lake Report it was around $15 million.

The District School Board of Niagara originally sold the property in 2018 to Liberty Sites for about $4.9 million.

That sale process sparked controversy because the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake also wanted to purchase the site but the school board opted to sell it to the developer.

Development of the Parliament Oak property has been the centre of controversy after Liberty Sites proposed a three-storey apartment building for the site.

That drew the ire of nearby residents such as Gordon, whose group Preserve Our Special Town was created to raise awareness about the project.

“It’s not unusual for developers to actually go through the approval process, get their approvals and then sell the property with what we call the value added,” Gordon said.

He noted the controversy around Liberty Sites' plan has “muddied the waters” around the site and any future developer will have an uphill battle against residents who are now hyper-aware of the situation.

Gordon said he is worried that if the property carries a large price tag it could mean future developers will be looking for even more housing density on the site.

“I believe there will be substantial resistance to any very intense developments such as the one that Liberty Sites has proposed in the first place.”

Documents obtained by The Lake Report regarding the sale of the property have two conceptual site plans. 

One has several detached homes and an apartment building while the other features 14 detached homes and two semi-attached residential properties located in the frontispiece of the old school.

“It’s too bad the developer has chosen a different route than to work with the community to build something that everyone can be proud of,” Lord Mayor Betty Disero said in an interview Wednesday.

Disero said she could not speak for council about whether the town might try to buy the property.

“Hopefully, at the end of the day, we’ll be able to have something that everyone will be proud of,” she said.

“We have to watch now to see who buys it and what happens.”