St. Patrick’s-Alexandra development OKed

City opts for for-proft proposal, angering non-profit agency supporters.

Civil rights activist Rocky Jones strolled up to the podium at the Peninsula Community Council Monday, with a newspaper in hand, and read a headline with disappointed defeat, “Winner emerges in bid for the St. Patrick’s Alexandra site.” City staff recommended a residential and commercial proposal from Jono Developments, trumping two other residential pitches from United Gulf and Mythos Developments along with a collective bid from three community groups to use the former existing school.

The non-profit bid included the North End Community Health Centre, Richard Preston Centre for Excellence, and the Micmac Friendship Centre---along with their umbrella services, Direction 180, Mainline Needle Exchange and the Mi’kmaq Child Development Centre. Their bid placed last.  

“I’m here to encourage members of council to just give us a chance, I’m not asking to make a decision---give us a chance, we can sit down and use all of our resources to look at what we can do. Then, if we can’t do it, c’est la vie,” said Jones, echoing the sentiment of other speakers, who asked why community consultation wasn’t part of the decision. He suggested they delay council’s verdict in order to have that discussion.

On Tuesday councilor Dawn Sloane agreed, and moved to put-off the vote, arguing that a consultation should have happened prior to the request for proposals according to the city’s process. Sloane’s motion was widely rejected. Council voted 18-4 in favour of the developer.

Jono---co-owned by Joe Metledge and Norman Nahas---included a minimum of 5-10 percent of affordable housing in their bid along with 5-10 percent of community space.

Staff ranked the pitches based on a point system which rates qualifications, experience, financial capability and the financial offer.

The city, already under a cloud for their passing acquaintance with openness, isn’t disclosing Metledge’s offer.

Sloane and Councillor Jennifer Watts both suggested there may be a flaw in the RFP process when non-profits are at bat against commercial projects. Bedford councilor Tim Outhit said he didn’t understand their objection to affordable housing.

“They want more things downtown and now they’re trying to delay and obstruct development downtown it would appear. I don’t get it,” he said. After St. Pat’s Alexandra closed last spring, the property valued at $4.3 million was passed from the province to HRM. Schools over 30 years old are gifted to the city when they are no longer needed.

The non-profits asked to pay $1 for the school, planning to do any refits needed using funds from selling their prime Gottingen Street real estate.

Alongside Jones, parishioners from the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church, youth workers, activists and a community board member spoke in support of the non-profits during Monday’s meeting.

Jesse Blackwood, director of St. George’s Youthnet, argued that choosing a development over long-awaited community space adds to the lack of opportunity in the neighborhood and heightens economic inequality.

“Putting a building on this property will only send one message to the community, already feeling constantly under siege, and that is that they are being forced out of a community they dearly love. Put yourself in their position---a beautiful condo next to Uniacke Square,” said Blackwood.

“Shame, shame, shame!” shouted Rhonda Britton, pastor at Cornwallis Church, after council voted. “At the push of a button, you wipe out a community.”

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