HALIFAX – “Destroy St. Pat’s.” This was the verdict of the Coast’s newest fix the city article, a list otherwise chalk full of forward-thinking city-building suggestions.
What to do with the decrepit old high school — currently the Quinpool Education Centre — at Quinpool and Windsor now that its students sit a few blocks east in new Citadel High classrooms is definitely a good question to be asking; a question that deserves better answers than just demolition, especially since there are so many ways the neighbourhood could benefit by reusing this fifties-era landmark.
Physically the largest high school in Canada when it opened in 1954, St. Pat’s once accommodated 2,300 students. Due to the building’s massive size, these last few years aren’t the first time many of its rooms have gone unused. When it first opened, students took up only one fifth of the area, a number comparable to the 400 students using the school before its closure three years ago.
Rather than just tearing it down, why not reuse the building for a whole mix of purposes? With so many students living in the area, ideas like turning the old school library over to the Halifax Public Library and adding wireless internet should be explored. Or perhaps returning Quinpool Road to its former glory as a movie theatre mecca by revamping the auditorium as an independent cinema?
The empty classrooms could also serve a variety of purposes. Mirroring the amazing renovation of 401 Richmond in Toronto, the building could house studios, work spaces and offices for artists, entrepreneurs and start-up companies. Like at 401 Richmond, a daycare could make use of the protected courtyard following a bit of greening while its massive flat roof could become a fantastic roof-top patio and garden.
Opening up the Quinpool-facing side of the building with doors and patios wouldn’t be a bad idea either. With so much lawn space to work with, cafes and restaurants would likely kill for so central a location with that much room between the building and the sidewalk.
These are just a few alternatives to demolition that should be considered before the building is written off by renewal projects.
photo by Simon Pulsifer