I’ve been convinced for at least a decade that Tytler School was going to be swept up in the outbreak of condo mania we’ve seen in the past few years in The Ward. It’s in an ideal location and ripe for conversion, possessing the correct combination of retro hip cred, a sizable potential parking lot and location x3. Currently, it’s officially known as the Couling Crescent Holding School, where French Immersion kids are patiently waiting for the construction of said school, a purpose built quasi-private institute for the FI Movement. Tytler somehow went from “expensive to maintain” to “well maintained” overnight, needing only “cosmetic touch ups” to enable it to be used as a holding pen for a school that did not physically exist. Couling is well off the beaten path; as of writing it’s an array of cinderblocks and mud, so Tytler will be occupied for a while yet. Couling Crescent will never be walkable and was not designed to be, as it is quite literally out on the edge of town. Even if it were more central, sheer parental terror will prevent any tot from attempting the journey on foot. How will they know to stop at the intersections if the signs aren’t bilingual?
Once the new, elite, petroleum based school is opened, Tytler will probably linger forlorn once more having reverted to a status of surplus/unusable/only fit for playground crystal meth deals. Lots of meetings will be held both private and public and input will be sought and ignored as to what shall we do with the grand old thing. Will it be ceded to the developer who coughs up the most megabucks at a fundraiser before the provincial party fundraising rules change? Or will it sit empty for years like the Imico property, the old jail or the parking lot where the iconic Family Thrift Store once stood?
There is an obvious win/win solution that needs to be considered for this vintage survivor. Tytler School should become the new main library.
To accommodate the Metalworks/Woods development, the downtown boundary was secretly redrawn to incorporate it in order to reach a mythical Places To Grow number and please our provincial planning masters. With that circle widened, Tytler School is now just outside the “downtown” perimeter by a couple of blocks. There will be hundreds of new down-towny people who will overlook our humble, seasoned neighbourhood with envy. According to Google maps, the Baker Street Parking lot and Tytler are nearly equidistant from Condo Ground Zero. Said map also puts the old school closer to the population boom on the east side of the river than the actual downtown and both the existing and phantom libraries. Add in the Tricar towers and you have the majority of downtowners at the gates of The Ward. Enter if you dare.
Is walkability the actual desired outcome of these new developments, or is everyone just getting high on buzzwords? Here’s what MetalWorks has to say: “Even on foot, the city’s historic landmarks, distinctive limestone architecture, retail, dining, professional services and entertainment are just minutes away” And from the River View sales pitch: “Walkways and greenery are incorporated in the design of the surrounding landscape, bringing to life the traditional values of neighbourhood and community.” Do traditional values include having traditional things like a corner store, school or library? Or do they actually mean the presence of new traditions such as pricy coffee, free wifi and artisanal cheese? Google Maps calculates it’s an 11 minute walk to Tytler from the River View Condos and a 7 minute toddle from MetalWorks. Even if you detour past any sketchy house that affronts your incomer tastes, you’d be there in no time. The wifi would most certainly be free and hopefully the Jobs Opportunities Enterprise (JOE) coffee cart would come along and be a permanent fixture in the new Tytler main branch.
A firm, visionary decision needs to be made on Tytler School’s status, which should include keeping a public building as public space. It’s currently a working school again, which rubbishes the unfit for human occupation argument. On the definitely decrepit side of things is our current library, which by all accounts is too small, actually falling apart and needs to be nuked. Why not spritz up Tytler when the FI kids leave to make it the “new” library? Isn’t it time to put a worn out 60’s mess out of its misery and consider building a tasteful, mid-rise, rent geared to income cooperative condo in the central branch rubble that the neighbours and urban design types can live with? It could be a live/work dream! So Guelph! High walkability factor! Steps to board games and weird cheese! It’s a win win, somebody tell Wynne!
A parental delegation gave Tytler it’s recent reprieve and kept it open. A strong willed, bookish, people’s coalition of Ward types and condo dwellers may find the perfect use for it yet.