Plans to repurpose Mindemoya Old School starting to pick up steam

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MINDEMOYA–The Mindemoya Old School Repurposing Committee (MOSRC) took another step forward at the July 16 meeting with the attendance of Andrea Tann. As was reported earlier, Ms. Tann works for an architectural firm in Sudbury, is an interior designer and had offered her pro bono assistance to the committee in their efforts to find new functions for the iconic building.

Ms. Tann brought existing drawings of the school structure and explained that the first step for the committee would be programming and then design development. 

MOSRC chairperson Ted Williamson then noted that phase one of plans would be a drop-in centre for seniors and that accessibility would be an issue. He said that there are 850 seniors in Central Manitoulin and the feedback he was getting was that they need things to do, especially in the winter. Then, the next step would be to set up businesses that would help to offset costs. He went on to talk about the drop-in centre in Sudbury which has rooms for classes, meetings and more.

Ms. Tann was asked about the cost of a new building and she responded by saying that this would be $100 per square foot. “You have a perfectly good building,” she said. “You just have to do upgrades. A new building would not be feasible. You just have to bring the building up to code.”

Ms. Tann also remarked that the people she had talked to would not go to any building with a lift and therefore an elevator is required. ‘’The elevator would have limited use and therefore can be smaller in size,” she said, and added, “I would suggest that the elevator go on the outside of the building by the mechanical room, and make that a main entrance also.”

Jan McQuay asked if the elevator would be below grade and Ms. Tann replied that the device would be on grade and then would go up or down.

Chairman Williamson noted that the five main items to be done with the Old School building are the roof, heating, plumbing, air conditioning and accessibility.

To this, Ms. Tann spoke of the upcoming legislation whereby every public building in Ontario has to have accessibility by 2025. The Accessibility for Ontarians Disability Act (AODA) was enacted to provide accessibility for those with mental or physical disabilities. “I am hoping,” Ms. Tann said, “that the (Progressive) Conservative government will get rid of the Act. They don’t even have enough money to upgrade the government buildings.”

She then spoke of the washrooms in the school building and noted that there is a barrier-free one on the main floor, but it is not up to code. “The size of the building,” she explained, “means you need a universal bathroom with an adult change table, pulls and call alarms. You need 150 square feet for this, for a unisex bathroom. The number of people in the building results in the number of washrooms. There are enough in the building and the downstairs washrooms could remain as is.”

The next question came from Mr. Williamson who asked if they needed to install a sprinkler system. “It is not required,” Ms. Tann answered, “but it would be a good idea.”

Mr. Williamson also asked about the two main walls. “Were you thinking about offices?” Ms. Tann said. The answer was in the affirmative but once again, the chairperson reiterated the committee’s decision to have the first phase of operations be for seniors. 

Hal Love explained that there would be an activity centre with things such as cards and so on. “Once we determine where that is going to be, we can make decisions about offices,” he said. He added that the members had talked about hooking up with Cambrian College or Laurentian University to have different classes, with which Ms. Tann agreed. She also added that the existing kitchenette was pretty well move-in ready.

Ms. Tann was also in favour of the committee installing a theatre room. “If you get a stage in there, you could have something like a dance centre. If you had a theatre, I think it would go over for all age groups. For example, a theatre night for seniors. I think a theatre would go over big.”

Ms. Tann also broached the need for a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. “I would like to see consultants involved to get a figure on a system. A ball park figure. A mechanical engineer would be able to tell you what is best.”

“We have a lot of ideas,” Mr. Love said. “Now we need a lot of money. We have 4,800 square feet.”

“You wouldn’t need to do the whole building,” Ms. Tann replied, and reminded the committee that they could provide space for tenants and they would do upgrades. She added that all the ideas were great and that what was needed now was volunteers.

“People are looking for things to do,” Mr. Williamson said. “To be a part of the community. I still like the idea of the seniors’ centre.”

Mayor Stephens agreed, saying, “I think you have to start there.”

Discussion with Ms. Tann ended with her commitment to doing design development drawings such as offices and the drop-in activities centre.

Mr. Love commented that he would talk to the historical society members to see what kind of space they need. He also mentioned that Darren Dewar, owner of Manitoulin Roofing, along with Jeremy Gordon, would be taking a look at the old school’s roof to ascertain what is needed. “I think going to a metal roof would be the wise thing to do,” he said.

Ms. McQuay spoke of the committee meeting with Mary Nelder and her dealings with the Trillium Foundation. “The one thing that I came away with is that if the FedNor grant doesn’t come up, don’t give up.”