Class Notes: VSB settles with reluctant strata

International Village school construction begins in May

The Vancouver School Board hopes to start constructing an elementary school at International Village in May, a year later than planned.

The board had hoped to see the new kindergarten to Grade 7 school open December 2015. Now it’s aiming for December 2016.

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Foundations for the school need to be built through the parkade at the Firenze condo tower at the corner of Abbott Street and Expo Boulevard. Jim Meschino, VSB director of facilities, says this was included on the land title.

“It just became something that people either forgot or didn’t want to acknowledge,” Meschino said.

Firenze was completed in 2007.

The VSB filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court as a last resort after months of failing to gain access to the parkade. The board wanted to maintain an amicable relationship with the future school’s neighbours.

The board settled with the strata before their court date, Jan. 13.

Meschino only shared the aspects of the settlement that he said were “common knowledge.”

He said the board corresponded with the strata about construction in 2013. It discussed concerns with the strata last February and hosted an open house with Francl Architects in September. He notes the school will be cantilevered five metres into the adjacent park.

“To keep it away, as far as possible, from the residents,” Meschino said. “And we’re putting a green roof on so they’re looking down at something nice.”

The multi-storey school will accommodate 510 students.

The VSB secured parking with 24-hour security across the street for six months for the stalls that will be affected.

Those unconcerned with parking will receive a “token amount” of money per month instead. Residents will also be permitted to rent out VSB parking stalls earlier in the day than stated on the land title.

Meschino says residents of Firenze were concerned construction of a school adjacent to their tower would negatively affect their land values.

He said a structural engineer for the strata worked with the school board’s structural engineer and allayed residents’ concerns.

Meschino said he couldn’t disclose what the board spent on legal costs.

The resolution doesn’t solve the school board’s problems.

“Even when we finish International Village, we’re projecting that we’ll still be short school space in the West End-downtown core,” Meschino said.

“The reason schools lag is because the province won’t fund a new school until the population gets there,” Meschino said. “We’re always trying to catch up with the school population that’s already there.”

The VSB is working with the city on the proposed site for an elementary school in Coal Harbour. Another elementary school is meant to be built in Southeast False Creek.  

“The land that’s right beside the Coal Harbour Community Centre, right at the foot of Broughton, is designated for a school, a 69-seat childcare and five floors of non-market housing,” Meschino said. “The city has never been able to move forward on the childcare and the housing because the school occupies the base.”

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