Volunteers have been hard at work renovating the old Alexander Gibson Memorial School in Marysville into the non profit community center called The Ville Cooperative.
The Ville was launched in August of 2015, and many local groups and clubs have named the space it’s home. Now it’s time to change the interior from the elementary school that’s been standing since 1926 into a fully operational center for different activities.
Jeff MacFarlane, the executive director says they have plans for The Ville beyond recreational activities and hobbies.
“We’ve taken over the old Alexander Gibson Memorial School (AGMS) and transforming… into a holistic community center around arts, culture, physical, literacy and renewable energy,” said MacFarlane.
So far, the response of the community has been positive, said MacFarlane. Many locals have started using The Ville as a place to hold Zumba classes, martial arts classes and even a sewing group.
Cindy Doak taught at the school for a number of years. When it closed down, she made the switch to teach at Gibson Neill Memorial Elementary School, a blend of AGMS and South Devon Elementary.
She says The Ville was a good change and something the Marysville community needed.
“It’s really nice to know that they’re using it, and they’ve got kids in there- not just kids, but things going on for the community,” said Doak, “I think it’s great.”
Doak also says that it has brought the community together. Part of that had to do with the transition between AGMS and Gibson Neill, which happened to be a big change for those involved,. Though it sometimes feels strange, the switch and The Ville has had an overall positive impact.
“We were a small staff who really knew each other and worked well together. And now we’re an bigger staff who work well together. And it’s a great school but it’s just different when you’re in that smaller community.”
MacFarlane says that community has always been a main reason for developing and creating The Ville. AGMS is a central resource for adding empowerment to Marysville.
“Knowing that a community needs that ability to empower itself and that a building like this in such an amazing setting could transform and help to build resilient community here in Marysville.”
The sense of belonging and home are parts of the result they hope to see come out of The Ville.
“The end goal for The Ville is to create a place where everyone feels like they’re at home, that when they come through these doors they’re empowered to use their assets for their community and help to change the narrative in our province.”
In the meatime, they are going to use the property as an “edible landscape,” says MacFarlane, by adding gardening to spaces in the playground. They will also have woodworking and robotics as projects for everyone to try.
As for the look, they want to keep the old half of the building as historic as possible. They want to “bring back the glory” of it, and then modernize the newer half.
“We’ll have a modern side of the school but then have that historic piece of the school, and not try to change too much of the existing structure,” said MacFarlane.