Carole Finn said it does not bother her seeing the demolition of the former home to the art college she helped found.

Workers have begun tearing down the building at 1 Sunnyside St., which once housed what is today known as Haliburton School of Arts and Design. Garden Retirement Developments Inc. plans to build a new 74-unit seniors residence on the property.

The building housed the college for many of its formative years, between the 1970s and 90s. But it has sat unused since the school moved to its current location at College Drive in 2004. Finn said she has fond memories of the old building but is fine with what is happening.

“The village has to move on,” Finn said. “The village is growing and certainly, the school grew with the village. It changed, the property changed and now it’s got another use.”

The college did not start out in that structure, known as the Lakeview Centre. The school began around 1967, with a group of people teaching classes out of cottages and other assorted buildings.

The Lakeview Centre previously housed the township elementary school. But when the school board bought a property and moved that elsewhere in 1972, the centre was open for the college to move in.

“We had no home,” Finn said.

The arts college moved into the front part of the Lakeview Centre. There it grew, attracting hundreds of students. Arts groups would use the structure for the winter months, while the college would operate more classes in the summer. There was a lot of camaraderie amongst artists at the time, Finn said.

“The college was really the conduit for all the local artists to grow. That was where they met,” Finn said. “It was just a real family of people.”

But the Lakeview Centre was an ageing building and was hard to maintain, Finn said. She served on the college’s board of governors from 1982-1989 and said she fought to get investment in the building.

“Keeping up an old building was a huge expense for the college,” she said. “There wasn’t the political will to keep arts funded.”

But the school was helped when community came together to build the current new campus, Finn said. Now, the Sunnyside Street property is ready for a new purpose.

“It’s good that it’s still there to be used for the needs of the community. At the time it was a school, it did a tremendous thing for the growth of the community,” Finn said. “Same thing now. We need places for seniors to go.”

Project stuck in limbo

The property still remains in legal limbo due to a holding provision, stemming from an Ontario Municipal Board ruling.

Although the developer has a demolition and site-servicing permit, they cannot build there yet. Garden Retirement Developments Inc. approached Dysart et al council July 23 to address the situation. The municipality can lift the holding provision, but only when certain planning requirements are met.

Although no resolution was found at the time, staff and councillors expressed a desire to keep working to ensure the project proceeds.

Municipal manager of planning Sue Harrison said that work continues.

“Staff are working diligently with the developer to keep the project moving forward in a timely manner,” Harrison said.

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