Plan to renovate former Rivier Academy building for seniors housing stalls

Change is coming to the old Rivier Academy building. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The future of the former Rivier Academy building is one again the subject of discussion after the Ministry of Education announced the possibility of using it for Conseil des Écoles Fransaskoises (CÉF) students.

The news came as part of a media release touting the province’s new Saskatchewan Francophone education funding model. That model includes a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for new CÉF schools Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. The CEF is the only French language first school board in Saskatchewan, with roughly 2,000 students enrolled in 15 schools.

Education Minister Gord Wyant toured the former Rivier Academy on Friday during a trip to Prince Albert, but remained tight-lipped about whether the building would house students once again.

“I am appreciative of the work that has been done by the Conseil des Écoles Fransaskoises to find a suitable facility for francophone students in Prince Albert,” Wyant said in a statement emailed to the Daily Herald. “I was very encouraged by the tour of Rivier Academy, and was impressed by the facility that the community suggested. Our Ministry will continue to work directly with the conseil in order to ensure that quality education is provided for Francophone families.”

The news came as a bit of a surprise to some of the city’s elected officials and administrators, who were under the impression the building would be redeveloped into seniors housing. Both Mayor Greg Dionne and City Manager Jim Toye said they’d heard nothing since council passed a motion in May 2018 to jointly run Marion Aquatics Pool with Ottawa-based developer St. Joseph Developments.

St. Joseph had expressed interest in renovating the building to create more than 100 independent seniors apartment units. The plan also included commercial leasing space and a 45-space childcare centre on the ground floor. St. Joseph and the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, who operated Rivier Academy and Marion Aquatics since the 1970s, had issued a press release in August 2017 about a partnership to “identify a meaningful future plan for the property.”

However, that plan seems to have stalled. On Friday, Prince Albert lawyer Mitch Holash, an advisor to the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, said they were exploring new possibilities.

“That particular developer had experienced some personal family health issues and so there were some challenges with respect to furthering that project,” Holash explained. “The sisters are continuing to look at the full range of their options there too. It’s not likely that option with St. Joseph Developments is going to be pursued much further.”

Holash and Sr Lise Paquette, the provincial leader of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, declined to comment on the Ministry of Education’s announcement, or any other option they might be looking at.

“(The sisters) are very diligent and respectful of how they look at these opportunities, and there’s certainly more than one they’re looking at,” Holash said.

While the St. Joseph Development may have stalled, the company itself seems to have disappeared. Its webpage is no longer in operation because the domain name expired on March 10, and its phone number is no longer in service.

Company president Vincent Detillieux, who spoke to Prince Albert city council last year about the redevelopment plans, is now listed as the president of Larimar Construction Ltd. and Complete Condo Management on his LinkedIn page. Detillieux did not reply to messages asking for more information, which were sent to his LinkedIn page on Thursday. Phone messages left with Complete Condo Management on Thursday also went unreturned. Emails sent to the address listed on the company’s contact page were returned as “undeliverable.”