The Village of Fruitvale now owns the full block – or 3.7-hectares of land – between Columbia Gardens Road and Green Road.
Mayor Steve Morissette says the municipality recently purchased the remaining one-hectare parcel of the former Beaver Valley Middle School, located adjacent to Green Road. Through a public foreclosure in January 2018, the village bought the adjoining 2.6-acre school lot for $149,000.
“This piece of land, acquired for $190,000 through a court-ordered sale, consolidates the ownership by the village of the whole of the school site,” he confirmed. “(For) a total purchase value of $339,000.”
At first glance, the price of such a large property appears to be a bargain. But Morissette says due to demolition costs, the lot currently has a negative value upwards of $1 million.
Therefore, the next move is for the village to secure outside funding to tear down the old school building.
“This is a former provincial asset that we require help to remove,” Morissette explained. “To date, the province has been very supportive of the development, which is why we took the big step of purchasing the school and site.”
As with any key revitalization project, anticipation is growing. But a new build will not happen overnight.
“The site has incredible potential to invigorate Fruitvale, build our tax base, sustain our remaining school and support our downtown businesses,” the mayor said “Although we’d all like to see it completed ASAP, I anticipate an eight-to-10 year timeline to see it fully developed with servicing and housing.”
In the meantime, Fruitvale council will be seeking insight from the community through, for example, town halls.
“Many Fruitvale residents attended this school and have positive memories of their experiences,” said Morissette. “So the village’s efforts to date, reflect an initiative to return the site to a purpose which provides a benefit to the whole community,” he added.
“How that takes shape will involve communication with the community, collaboration with other stakeholder groups, and opportunities presented through specific improvement options.”
BC Housing and Columbia Basin Trust have both participated in discussions around site development, as housing needs within the municipality have been identified as a critical element.
“The low vacancy rate in the area, coupled with minimal new housing stock, creates an exciting opportunity for the village to engage in a plan for the site,” concluded Morissette.
By the late 1960’s, the two existing schools in Fruitvale were filled to capacity. One was located on Laurie Street and the other was the newly-built elementary school on Columbia Gardens Road.
A new junior high school -the Beaver Valley Junior High School -was constructed further along Columbia Gardens Road to fill the need for more space. According to School District 20 history, in October 1970, Principal Lloyd Wilkinson and staff supervised pupils from grades 8 through 10 as they carried their desks down the street to the new school.
In 1967, two Grade 7 classes moved into the school, leaving one Grade 7 class at Fruitvale Elementary. Subsequent years saw numerous grade re-configurations and name changes as Grade 6 and Grade 7 pupils from Montrose Elementary were moved in.
While the name officially changed to Valley Middle School for the 1993-94 year of study, the final name of Beaver Valley Middle School was adopted in 1994.
By the time the school closed in June 2003, only students in grades 6 through 8 remained. The two younger grades meshed into Fruitvale Elementary School, while grade eight students were bused into Trail or elsewhere.
In the summer of 2009, a man by the name of Harry Jung bought the land with the intent to create an international school for Korean students. Residents were incensed when Jung removed 80+ trees from the grounds, then months later, the village filed notice on the land title. At that time, council reported that Jung had failed to meet the requirements for a building permit, though construction had been underway for some time.