An old vacant high school sits in the middle of a residential area, but it’s far from being unoccupied. Shattered glass and insulation are scattered on the floor. Pipes and wiring hang from the ceiling and destroyed walls. Noises echo through the building, curiously close to the sound of footsteps. The allure of an abandoned building brings numerous people around, evident from the trampled fence and disturbed snow leading towards a broken window.
A group of photographers explored the building back in November of last year. On an anonymous blog, Jermalism, the narrator detailed the experience.
“We have only been inside a mere matter of minutes when the silence breaks. We are staggered, five of us stalking down the long hallway and into the library when the distinct sound of heavy footsteps pounds directly overhead on the second floor,” Jerm IX wrote on the blog.
The only real occupant is a presentation centre for ValHomes, a new housing development by UrbanCorp who now owns the property. The building has become an exploration site for photographers and curious explorers, the gym transformed into a skate park with rails and ramps. The building, formally Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School, was owned by the Toronto Catholic School Board. It was vacated when a new building for the school opened at Kipling and Lakeshore in 2006. The property was sold to UrbanCorp, a development company, and plans on building semi-detatched and detached homes on the property.
Sam Elgohary, real estate broker for ValHomes, says the homes have just about sold out.
“There are only three or four units left, and they go for around $900,000,” said Elgohary. “Construction starts in the summer and it will take about a year and a half to finish.”
Elgohary said development should be done by 2016, but Cynthia Owusu-Gyimah, the city planner who reviewed the development proposal for the site said plans have yet to be approved.
“There has been no decision on the application on whether building has been permitted,” said Owusu-Gyimah. “In the form that has been proposed, they can’t go through with building quite yet.”
David A. Mandell is vice president of UrbanCorp and he says they have the city on their side for the project.
“Inititally, the city wasn’t on our side with what we had proposed,” said Mandell. “They were looking for much larger lots.”
On the new proposal, the largest lot is 40-feet and the smallest is close to 30-feet. Mandell says construction should start in 12-18 months.
Mandell says UrbanCorp can demolish the abandoned high school whenever they want, but are putting it off because it would mean unnecessary spending.
As for the state of the building, Mandell said it was used in 2010 for a television series, Fallen Skies, that followed a group of people during an alien invasion.
“The school was featured on the first season. There’s fake blood on the lockers, that’s where the characters were living,” said Mandell.
When asked if he knew about people exploring the abandoned school, Mandell said he wasn’t aware because they usually don’t go into areas of the school they don’t need to be in.
“We don’t have security walking around the building,” said Mandell. “It’s more of an insurance issue than the law.”