City of Salmon Arm buys portion of former JL Jackson site

Mayor Nancy Cooper takes the ball from School District #83 board chair Bobbi Johnson to signify the city’s purchase of a five-acre piece of land on the former JL Jackson school site. - Chelsea Grainger/Observer
Mayor Nancy Cooper takes the ball from School District #83 board chair Bobbi Johnson to signify the city’s purchase of a five-acre piece of land on the former JL Jackson school site.
— image credit: Chelsea Grainger/Observer

A $1.5 million deal will keep five acres of the former JL Jackson school site in public hands.

The City of Salmon Arm has purchased the property from the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District #83 in a process that has been ongoing over several months, says Mayor Nancy Cooper.

The purchase agreement was passed unanimously in an in-camera session following Monday’s council meeting, says Cooper, noting the deal was sealed with board chair Bobbi Johnson signing the agreement late Monday afternoon.

“It’s pretty exciting, we’ve been working on it for months,” said Cooper. “Both council and the school district were supportive, but it went back and forth a few times.”

The property known as Lot 3 is immediately west of the Downtown Activity Centre (Lot 2) and site of the new School District Administration and Education Support Centre (Lot 1) and bounded by Fifth Avenue SW and Third Street SW.

“The agreement reached will see the city pay some of the property’s value in cash and the rest in services to upgrade the remainder of the former JL Jackson property frontage to the city centre standard, which is almost a $1 million investment in downtown revitalization,” reads the July 14 news release. “The off-site servicing work will be completed on Lots 1 and 2 and 4 and will include improvements such as sidewalks, trees, lighting, utilities, etc., which will enhance this important area of the city centre.”

Cooper says some of the $500,000 in the cash portion will come from the city’s gas tax fund, and the remainder of the purchase price will come from the sale of two city-owned  properties.

“This purchase ensures that this strategic location will be secured and preserved for important civic uses,” says Cooper, noting that Lot 3 will be used for youth soccer as well as park/green space. “Higher levels of cultural and athletic uses are being contemplated for the future, perhaps including a performing arts centre and indoor soccer/athletic facility with running track.”

Cooper agrees this does indeed open the door to the new Shuswap Society For Arts and Culture, an organization dedicated to the construction and management of a community multi-purpose performing arts centre.

“It certainly does open the door for performing arts and soccer,” says Cooper, noting the current council does not envision city capital and operating funds for these potential long-term uses. “What I personally envision is to lease the land for a dollar, which we do for many other community groups.”

The mayor says she and council have heard the pleas to keep the property in public lands and says the purchase will allow the city to fulfill all the guidelines established by a design group formed after a Loblaws proposal was turned down a few years ago.

“We know we want to do a playground but we don’t have it figured out yet,” Cooper says. “There’s lots yet to be developed… We have a year to complete all the purchasing.”

Also pleased with the sale, Johnson says the services provided by the city will save the school district considerable funds and make the remaining lot more marketable.

“It is wonderful that a much-loved  and used property will now be available for youth and the broader community to use and enjoy.”

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