By John Devine
Special to Ontario Construction News
The site of an old high school in Orillia is on its way to finding new life as a regional hub, delivering affordable housing options and a range of community services as the County of Simcoe proceeds with development plans.
The County purchased the former Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute (ODCVI) property in Orillia in 2018, with the aim of creating a regional hub that would house about 100 Simcoe County Housing Corporation (SCHC) affordable mixed units for seniors, families and individuals, and variety of other services.
Following a consultation process, the “compelling vision” that emerged “is one of a vibrant, diverse and inclusive regional community hub which provides affordable housing options for seniors and other mixed income households, helps to alleviate the barriers to accessing essential community and social services for residents, and creates a sense of inclusion,” reads a Jan. 14 report to county council.
When the County bought the school property on Borland Street East, it hired a social innovation consulting firm, Eco-Ethonomics, to conduct a visioning and consultation process, which began in the spring of 2019.
“In addition, information was gathered to better understand what services may be well-suited to be included in a hub, and how those services might interconnect or benefit from being co-located in a hub setting, and possible outcomes and impacts of such. The consultation process also took the opportunity to identify innovative features or attributes that a regional community hub could incorporate to achieve greater efficiency, effectiveness and financial sustainability in meeting the community’s needs,” reads the report.
A two-phase construction schedule is planned. Before proceeding with the project, staff will report back to council with more details and design options.
• About 100 affordable mixed housing units for seniors, families and individuals
• Ontario Works facilities
• Offices for community agencies to rent
- EarlyON site – child and family centre
- Licensed child care site
- Consideration for other large anchor tenants in the health and/or children’s services sector.
- County corporate services
- Other business services, such as Service Ontario, federal services, City of Orillia
- Health services
- VON/seniors day program
“The consultation process identified opportunities to intentionally design the hub to demonstrate sector-leadership in service integration and coordination, realize a culture of collaboration, and achieve efficiencies through shared resources. Innovative design considerations could reflect a hub space that provides flexibility for a variety of groups to gather, meet and host events; and incorporate green space with community gardens, as well as, walking trails and shaded benches to enjoy the outdoors.”
It’s anticipated that the conceptual design process will begin later this year, with funds for that having been allocated in the 2020 Operating Budget. The plan is to complete phase one by 2022. Timing of the second phase is to be determined. Staff will report back to council for concept approval, before moving to the presentation of a more detailed design and cost estimates for the first phase. The plan is to include the project in next year’s budget for council’s consideration.