Sarnia has approved a massive seniors complex that will bring more than 300 new residents and an economic boost to Sarnia’s south end.
The $41-million project calls for an eight-storey assisted living complex and a five-storey long-term care home on the site of the former Devine Street School, at Devine and Brock streets.
A one-storey “podium” connecting the two towers would offer medical, entertainment and recreational facilities.
City council unanimously approved the rezoning and Official Plan amendment last week.
“Here we have a development that’s going to spring to life, and bring life back into that once very vibrant part of the neighbourhood,” said Coun. Anne Marie Gillis.
“I’m certainly looking forward to getting that shovel in the ground.”
To accommodate parking for such a large complex on a three-acre site, the proposal calls for an underground parking garage. It would provide spaces for about 150 cars and come with a “scooter room” with parking for up to 58 mobility devices.
Overture Investments, a privately owned Canadian real estate investment company, bought the property at 321 Devine St. in May of 2016. The developers are eager to get a site plan and permits in place and get started “as soon as possible,” spokesman Jay McGuffin told a public meeting at City Hall.
The main entrance would be off of Devine Street. More independent seniors would occupy the larger tower, with some of the 126 beds in the long-term care home reserved for dementia patients, the developers say.
Despite its size, the project has received “overwhelming” support from neighbour with no objections from the general public, city staff said.
The property is currently occupied by the former Devine Street School. The building has been vacant 2010 when it closed because of declining enrolment and has since fallen into disrepair.
The new housing, however, is on temporary hold until the Lambton Area Water Supply System can confirms the existing Brock Street watermain is sufficient to service that many residents.
Coun. Bev MacDougall said the developers have gone to lengths to minimizing the impact of the towers on the neighbourhood through buffers, setbacks and building shadow-cast studies.
“There is pressure in our community to see these kind of economic developments projects move forward, and also to provide economic renewal in this part of the city,” she said.
The land at Devine and Brock has been used for educational purposes since the 19th century. A one-room schoolhouse stood on the site until 1882 when it was replaced by Devine Street School, which was expanded several times over the years.