Anthony Continelli is going back to school.
The president of Premium Building Group has plans to transform the historic Glen Ridge School building in St. Catharines into a 10-unit condominium building with 10 adjacent townhouses that have a similar look to the school.
“We’re always up for a challenge,” said Continelli, whose family company in St. Catharines was started 45 years ago by his father Tony. “We’ve done so many infill sites and every infill is a challenge to us, but at the end of the day it’s very rewarding. We tend to finish them off to blend in and satisfy everyone.”
The South Drive school in Old Glenridge was closed in 2016, but a tour inside Thursday revealed traces of the former activity with maps and clocks still hanging in classrooms, a Canadian flag and even writing on a blackboard.
The plan, which still requires approval by city council, is to use the classrooms as the footprints for the units, which will range from 950 square feet to 1,200 square feet.
Continelli said they want to keep many elements inside the school intact, such as the school bell hanging in the front hall, original flooring in the entrance, bricked hallways with rounded corners and the wide staircase and railings.
A water fountain may even stay in place to keep the old school charm.
“It’s one of a kind,” his father Tony Continelli said inside the school building, where a second-floor library will become a common area for residents and high ceiling heights will be retained as much as possible.
The main 1928-era building will be preserved while an attached gymnasium added in the 1980s will be demolished for a new parking lot. No additions to the school are being proposed.
“It sits in a nice area of St. Catharines and it’s worth keeping it,” Tony said, explaining why he thought it was a good project. “I think the neighbours are pleased and it’s something you don’t find every day. It’s really unique.”
City council heard details this week about an application by PBG to amend the official plan and zoning by-law to permit the apartments in the school building.
The public meeting Monday didn’t draw any residents with concerns.
Council will receive a recommendation report from city staff to discuss at its next meeting on Sept. 24.
If approved, Anthony Continelli said they could start work as early as this fall.
The project to build 10 townhouses to the north and east of the school building was previously approved through the committee of adjustment.
Continelli said the townhouses will be very similar in architecture to the school with roof lines and exterior finishes that take on the same colour as the old building. He said he wants it to blend together so it looks like one development when driving around the side streets.
“The townhouses, we wanted to take on the historic look of the school,” he said. “From day one when we came out with the initial drawings, everyone was really favourable of the whole development.”
The District School Board of Niagara voted to close the school in February 2016 due to low enrolment. City council created a 101 South Drive Property Task Force two months later to come up with possible uses for the school and land.
The task force recommended the city turn a third of the property into a public park, which it is doing, and ensure the rest is used for a development that’s compatible with the existing neighbourhood.