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What is the City of Edmonton’s policy on using surplus school sites?

When a school site – with or without an existing school building – is declared surplus and no other school board desires it, the City considers acquiring the site in the context of both community needs and corporate priority needs (such as parkland deficiencies, requirements for drainage, etc.). Where sites are situated on reserve land, the City almost always acquires it, because the cost of acquiring the site is $1. Where sites are situated on non-reserve land, a primary factor is the cost, which is evaluated against available City funds.

a) School sites with buildings that are declared surplus pose unique challenges. Most often the buildings are very old and in need of attention to repair structural, ventilation and/or heating issues. Assessments are taken to evaluate the merits (and corresponding costs) of renovation versus demolition. Each site is different. The City's administration reviews structural reports, input received from the community and City staff working with the community, and other information to determine a cost-effective and appropriate course of action.

b) When the City acquires an undeveloped surplus school site, City administration evaluates whether the land can be used in a way that helps fulfil City Council’s strategic goals city-wide as well as specific community needs. Examples include the First Place program for first-time homeowners and the initiative to build seniors’ housing.

City Council’s stated vision is to create a more compact, transit oriented and sustainable city. Council has also directed City administration to use existing infrastructure and services (such as those intended to support school construction) wherever possible and to encourage at least 25% of city-wide housing unit growth to take place downtown and in mature neighbourhoods. Infill projects in mature neighbourhoods help use existing infrastructure and services, including transit, to maximum levels possible, which in turn helps achieve more efficient use of City taxpayer dollar investments.

Read more in The Way We Grow, Edmonton’s Municipal Development Plan.

How does the City determine the amount of land to develop on surplus school sites, and its location? Will any surplus school site development result in a loss of open space planned for that site?

Joint Use sites (reserve land set aside for schools and parkland) are planned with 2 primary principles in mind:

  1. to provide a location for a school building and
  2. to provide open space and recreational opportunities for the community.

Any new developments on city-acquired surplus school sites will be constructed on land originally assembled for school buildings (called the “building envelope”). Developments are not constructed on planned open space or parkland.

In some instances, it was decided to temporarily use the school building envelope for sports fields, pending development of the school. The land surrounding the school building envelope will not be altered and will remain as open space/sports field for the community.

How was the size of the school building envelope originally established?

School building envelopes vary depending on the school board and the type of school that was planned for the site (for example, elementary or junior high schools). Maps of current surplus school sites on the City website show the approximate location and size of school envelopes recently declared surplus.

The size of school building envelopes is based on standards developed by the City and local school boards. These standards are reviewed regularly and have changed over time. They are incorporated into site specific plans that are created once the Area Structure Plan and Neighbourhood Structure Plans have been approved.

How have surplus schools sites been used in the past?

Surplus school sites have been used to meet a variety of needs, including:

  • Housing
  • Parks
  • Community facilities

In the past, some surplus reserve school sites were sold to church groups, public health care providers, private interests and the Edmonton Police Service.

Past surplus vacant sites that were never developed as schools have been converted to new uses, as shown in Google Map Street Views:

Beaumaris (Elementary Site) is now residential

Greenview (Junior High Site) is now multi-family residential

Ramsay Heights (Junior High Site) is now a church

Ermineskin (Junior High Site) is now a hospital

Westridge (Elementary Site) is now a park.

We feel we are losing green space. Can we request a community recreational needs assessment?

These sites use the original building footprint, not space set aside for parks. The green space surrounding the building site will remain.

The park and recreational needs of a neighbourhood are considered when a neighbourhood is designed at the early planning and subdivision stages of its development.  The municipal reserve land assembled to satisfy these needs is based on planning and design standards of the day for the various parks and schools planned within the area in question, government legislation, the amount of available municipal reserve land and school needs.  

Until built upon, the school building sites are designed and used as temporary park space (usually temporary sports fields), and were always intended to be built upon for public benefit.

Administration has determined, and City Council has supported the position, that existing park and recreational open space excludes school building sites when determining surplus land decisions and the adequacy of land for parks and recreation. The land for park and recreational needs was already taken into account and assembled appropriately.

City Council has deemed the planned permanent park spaces (net of the building sites) in all these neighbourhoods with surplus school sites to be adequate for community recreational needs. In addition, City Council has determined the best use and community benefit of some of these surplus school building sites is for various forms of housing.

As to the remaining parkland, future recreational needs assessments may be considered to determine whether changes to a given park are required based on new and different recreational needs identified by the community. 

This is often done regularly as part of the ongoing work communities do with their Neighbourhood Recreation Coordinators (NRC). The contact for this kind of work is the NRC assigned to the neighbourhood.   However, the recreational needs assessment will not entertain the question as to whether the building sites ought to be re-allocated as park spaces.

For More Information

Online Contact 311 Online

In Edmonton:  311
Outside Edmonton:  780-442-5311

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