Simcoe County approves $80 million vision for community hub project in Orillia

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

An $80 million transformation at the former Orillia District Collegiate Vocational Institute (ODCVI) got a green light by Simcoe County council last week.

The site was purchased by the county from the Simcoe Muskoka District School Board in 2018 after the school closed, and the approved development will include a multi-generational, mixed-use hub containing affordable housing, community services, and County supportive services.

The County’s ‘Orillia Campus’ will help the county inch closer to its affordable housing targets for the overall area including the City of Orillia, and Townships of Oro-Medonte, Ramara, and Severn. Also, the development will benefit the broader neighbourhood by helping to alleviate barriers to accessing essential community and social services, with a variety of support programs provided on one site.

“We know there is need for greater access to affordable housing and social and community services in Orillia and the surrounding area, with our waitlist for housing having reached well over two years,” said County Warden George Cornell.

“The County Orillia Campus development will increase the regions’ affordable housing stock and put a roof over the heads of more residents in need, while providing greater access to community services that assist seniors, families and individuals in one location.”

The development includes:

  • 130 Simcoe County Housing Corporation (SCHC) affordable mixed units for seniors, families and individuals.
  • Approximately 46 units are multi-bedroom units targeted to families, and the balance of the units are 1-bedroom and studio units.
  • All 1-bedroom and studio units follow a universal design for aging in place.
  • A common room for tenants with adjacent rooftop amenity area, including planter box gardens, is planned.
  • 216,000 sq. ft. with commercial/office space spanning about 60,000 sq. ft.

The project is expected to cost $79 million and will be completed by 2022, with funding from municipal partners, the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative.

According to staff reports, the design incorporates proven technologies for efficiencies in electricity, power and water consumption, including new standards set out by the County’s sustainable energy policy and teams. It will “ensure efficient use of the land and will be strongly rooted in good urban planning and design practices, in collaboration with City of Orillia.”

The County is taking a ‘shovel ready’ approach, council says, “working to have plans, studies and approvals prepared in order to be in an optimal position to receive potential additional funding opportunities.”

Planned operational sustainability includes “the combination of quality building materials and practices, as well as accounting for the necessary capital reserve, ensuring that the building will not require additional investment for the next 50 years.”

“After a robust public consultation process, the new Orillia Campus on the former ODCVI site will deliver much needed services to the Orillia community and surrounding areas. The need for more affordable housing in Orillia was identified as a key priority during council’s recent strategic planning consultation,” said City of Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke.

As a result, the development will be a multi-generational campus with services for both children and seniors in addition to affordable housing, County services, an EarlyON Child and Family Centre, and a licensed Child Care Centre will be housed at the Campus to meet the diverse needs of the community and surrounding areas.

Construction is anticipated to start in late spring or early summer of 2021.

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