Tenants move out as former school sold

Laura Black
Laura Black
Several tenants using the former Corstorphine School are being forced to move out to make way for a new property development that could begin as early as next month.

Land Information New Zealand (Linz) Crown property management acting manager John Hook said Corstorphine School was still owned by the Ministry of Education but was subject to an unconditional offer to purchase.

Settlement of the purchase was expected on May 16.

Mr Hook declined to say who the new owner would be, but several sources connected to the site believed the former school was being bought by a property developer and would probably be turned into an affordable housing project.

The school was opened in February 1950 and falling rolls forced the board of trustees to ask the ministry to close it in 2010.

The only licensed tenant in the school is the Methodist Mission.

Director Laura Black said May 16 was a day the mission had been expecting since they moved in three years ago.

Ms Black said the mission received notification recently that the ministry was terminating its lease.

''We always knew there was substantial risk that two or three years in, the ministry would dispose of the property and we would be asked to move on.

''We're actually really grateful to the ministry because the licence only has a month's notice in it, and they actually gave us three months' notice.''

She said the mission was the only tenant at the school permitted to use the buildings under a closed school licence, but several other smaller organisations used the facilities under the mission's ''umbrella''.

''I think for some of the smaller groups that were using it under our umbrella, it is more difficult. They don't have the mission's resources, and finding classroom-sized space is definitely tricky.

''And whilst there are a couple of other primary schools around town that are vacant, you need to have a lot of liability insurance to occupy those spaces.

''Small groups typically fall at that hurdle.''

The organisations that have used the buildings under the Methodist Mission umbrella are Rock Solid, which works with disadvantaged youth; Pacific Trust Otago education service; and The American Modular Group (a model engineering organisation).

Attempts to contact these organisations were unsuccessful yesterday.

Ms Black said the mission had secured commercial premises in South Dunedin. The school grounds are also home to the Corstorphine Kindergarten and the school's hall is used by the Corstorphine Community Hub.

However, Dunedin Kindergarten Association general manager Christine Kerr said the kindergarten and the hub would not be affected by the sale.

They were situated on land that was subdivided when the school closed in 2010.

The ministry gave the kindergarten and the Corstorphine Community Hub a 35-year lease to occupy the buildings.

''For the next 34 years, we are protected by the lease,'' she said.

Corstorphine Community Hub co-ordinator Dave McKay said he was pleased the hub would not be forced to move from its premises, but he was disappointed a housing project could potentially occupy the grassy playground.

''If you haven't got good ground to grow food, you're in [trouble].

''The land is critical for survival. It's not about greenie stuff, it's about survival.''

He also believed if a housing development went on the site, it would necessitate another school within 10 to 15 years.

''Social trends indicate [population] cycle booms and busts in a 15-year cycle.

''This community has bust and will boom again.

''I wouldn't be surprised at all if we see a new school built here in 10 to 15 years under current social conditions.''

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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