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Elementary school redevelopment moving forward

The multimillion dollar redevelopment of Banff Elementary School has reached the permitting stage.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed new Banff Elementary School.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed new Banff Elementary School.

The multimillion dollar redevelopment of Banff Elementary School has reached the permitting stage.

Banff’s planning and development department is recommending Canadian Rockies Public Schools (CRPS) be granted a development permit, but discussion and a decision at a Municipal Planning Commission meeting Wednesday (Dec. 16) could not be reported at press time.

Town of Banff officials say there are variances required to floor area ratio, height, site coverage and setbacks in recognition of the benefits the redevelopment will have for the community.

They say there is also a variance being recommended to parking requirements, noting all parking is suggested to go on the street in favour of paving over the school’s green space with a parking lot.

“The proposed Banff Elementary School redevelopment represents a significant reinvestment in a key component of the community,” said senior planner Darren Enns in a report.

“Its location within the PS land use district creates a unique regulatory environment, which the applicants have responded to with a modestly scaled building that fits within the residential neighbourhood and builds upon the school’s role as a community asset by retaining on-site recreational areas and amenities.”

The current Banff Elementary School building has evolved over time, with the initial wing constructed in 1956, and subsequent additions in 1968 and 1992.

CRPS has secured funding from the province of Alberta for the first phase of the school’s modernization, which comes with a price tag of roughly $8 million.

Phase one involves the addition of a new classroom and administration wing along Squirrel Street, some students moving from the current school to the phase one wing once complete.

Construction of the remainder of the classrooms, gymnasium, central core, and demolition of the existing structure is part of the second phase. Phase two is pegged at $12 million, but still needs provincial funding.

In addition, the Town of Banff has committed to spending capital dollars for purpose-built classrooms dedicated to the municipality’s after school club, a provincially licensed program run by the Town offering extra-curricular childcare programs for elementary-age children.

Parking is perhaps one of the biggest issues in the redevelopment. Presently there are eight on-site stalls.

Enns said it’s important to recognize that parking demand at elementary schools is primarily from employees of the school, noting “the children are obviously too young to be driving themselves.

“In light of this fact, it is equally important that elementary schools provide appropriate lay-by or on street space for pick- up and drop-off,” he said.

Administration examined several options to address parking, noting 33 on-site stalls as required by the land use bylaw would need an area of about 1,500 square metres, roughly the entire play area north of the school building.

“Firstly, the land area required would displace recreational opportunities which are much needed by both school users and the community,” said Enns.

“The Banff Elementary School site is one of the few maintained green spaces in the neighbourhoods north of the Bow River, neighbourhoods which house over 70 per cent of Banff’s population.”

Administration’s preferred option is moving on-site parking to public streets.

Enns said this option involves a major upgrade to the east side of Big Horn Street, including boulevard landscaping, creation of 21 on-street parallel parking stalls, and a new pedestrian sidewalk network.

He said MPC could provide direction on a different option for parking, including the creation of an on-site parking lot, cash-in-lieu contribution to an off-site lot, or providing angled parking along Big Horn Street.

“Any of these options would have to return to MPC for a decision given the complexity and level of review required by both administration and the applicant,” he said.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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