The regional school district will take back operations of Princeton’s Riverside Community Centre on May 1, 2022.
That decision settles a year of uncertainty regarding the future of the property.
The Nicola-Similkameen School District owns Riverside on Old Hedley Road. At one time it was an intermediate school, and it has been leased to the town since 2015 for $1,000 per month.
In March 2021, the district announced Riverside was on a list of surplus properties being considered for disposal.
According to local trustee and vice-chair of the school district Gordon Comeau, Riverside’s value was assessed at $3.5 million by a professional firm.
The building and land was offered to the town at a discount, said Comeau.
“We reduced the value as a matter of good faith for the community…It was an offer that they weren’t in a position to accept.”
Princeton CAO Lyle Thomas acknowledged the offer of sale, and stated the town did not, and does not, have the resources to purchase Riverside.
Presently Riverside houses a theatre, which was extended from the gymnasium with the help of provincial funding. There is a community commercial kitchen – paid for by the local Rotary Club – and town offices.
The town has rented part of the Riverside space to a private daycare. The school district uses two classrooms in the building, for alternative learning for high school students, through a program called The Bridge.
Residents also have use of an indoor and outdoor pickle ball court.
Comeau said he foresees no changes in the near future for Riverside arrangements, adding that special events booked into the theatre, and other rooms, will simply be handled by district staff rather than town staff.
“Nobody is getting thrown out the door. We will work with them,” Comeau said.
He added that Princeton Rotary is comfortable with the transition and use of the kitchen its members built.
While Comeau expressed reluctance to predict what might happen in future, he suggested changing expectations from the province, for example for schools to provide day care, and the potential for increased enrollment due to local development, could once again make Riverside a valuable district asset.
“School districts aren’t responsible for providing community centres. That’s the responsibility of the municipal council…It’s better than not having anything, but hopefully the town will find the resources, down the road, for a proper community centre.”
Both Comeau and Thomas said they expect a smooth transition of responsibilities.
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