A new housing complex planned for Sarnia will serve as a much-needed community hub for Indigenous families, its lead architect says.
“We’re not just building housing here — it’s also about building community,” said Matthew Hickey of Two Row Architect, a Six Nations firm spearheading the project funded by Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services.
The five-storey, 40-unit development slated for 940 Confederation St. includes an attached building for the Sarnia Native Friendship Centre — a non-profit that provides services to Indigenous residents. The Centre is currently located on Lochiel Street.
Also planned are indoor and outdoor gathering spaces, communal kitchen and resident garden plots.
“I’m a big believer in being in nature to heal,” said Hickey. “We know food security is a massive issue right now… so we’re really pushing for the ability for people to be able to share plots and grow food together. It’s something we really promote in our work.”
The design includes one, two and three-bedroom units. Fifteen percent are for elders and people with disabilities, Hickey added.
“Too often we see buildings going up where people don’t even know their neighbours,” said Hickey.
“I see it as extremely important, not only for the strength of community, but for our health and wellbeing, to be able to have people that are there who can take care of you in times of need, or just have someone to talk to, to eat with.”
Hickey said the group has submitted a zoning amendment application to City Hall. Pending community consultations, site plan approval and permits, construction could start early next year with a completion date in 2024.