Hamilton’s public school board is considering sharing land at Lake Avenue School with the city to provide a food bank, health centre and affordable housing for seniors in the Riverdale neighbourhood.
A concept plan presented to a city-school board liaison committee on Oct. 12 envisions a nine-storey building by the rear of the school as part of a new community hub that would offer additional community services in the area.
Tentative floor plans designate the first two storeys for a food bank, health centre and community kitchen.
Floors three through eight are earmarked for 48 affordable apartment units, with the final level set aside for a 3,000-square-foot recreational room for seniors and a 2,500-square-foot rooftop terrace.
I just think this is a hugely valuable opportunity to take advantage of that particular location.The plan also proposes to renovate and expand the Dominic Agostino Riverdale Community Centre, which is linked to the school, by adding 2,900 square feet of space for a new lobby and two multipurpose rooms.
If councillors and trustees endorse the proposal, the city and board will seek provincial approval to see it through.
A report presented to the liaison committee didn’t provide an overall cost for the project, but noted the city has budgeted $5 million for the recreation centre expansion and estimated the housing units at $9.6 million.
Board chair Todd White said the plan likely requires the Ministry of Education’s permission to allow housing on school property, but it’s timely because of a provincial push for community hubs.
He said the city and board are already sharing land at several school sites, including the new high school being built at Scott Park and a new Greensville elementary school that will include a public library and municipal community centre.
A similar partnership is also in the works for a proposed community hub on the Sir John A. Macdonald high school property that is to include a new elementary school, other public services and, potentially, some housing, he added.
“We know that reciprocal approach saves us each millions,” said White, who is trustee for the area.
“This is a good example of that and there are other reciprocal pieces on this property that will be beneficial to the community, to the students, to the school.”
Councillor Chad Collins, who represents the area, said the plan reflects a much-improved relationship between the board and city in recent years and the looming provincial election should help get the province onside.
He said he’d prefer the seniors housing and other elements in the nine-storey building to be attached to the recreation centre rather than in a standalone location, but he’s hopeful Queen’s Park will support the concept and let the city and board sort out those details.
Collins said the cost won’t be the issue because the city has budgeted money for the rec centre expansion and to increase Hamilton’s stock of affordable housing.
“The budgets are ours,” he said. “Usually the resources are traditionally the issue that prevents us from doing something, but in this case it’s simply a bureaucratic process that we have to get through at Queen’s Park.”
Flamborough Coun. Judy Partridge said she’s hopeful the project can proceed as quickly as possible.
“I just think this is a hugely valuable opportunity to take advantage of that particular location,” she said. “I think this could really be a model for southern Ontario going forward.”