How did an old school become an office building and then turn into a 46-unit supportive housing development? These kinds of changes don’t take place overnight, but the big day is fast approaching for 44 Eccles, the newest project from Cornerstone Housing.

The Cahdco team has been engaged since the project’s inception, working through feasibility, design development and construction. The project was initiated in the fall 2020, originally intended to be a replaced to the existing Cornerstone women’s shelter. Cornerstone quickly learned that funding programs favoured permanent supportive housing and not a temporary shelter so they pivoted and looked to do a supportive rental housing building. The CMHC Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) was identified as a possible program to apply to. CMHC RHI prioritizes projects that can be completed, either acquisition retrofits or new construction. To be competitive, Cahdco helped assist Cornerstone to acquire an existing building that could be modified to meet their needs. Working with a real estate agent, Cahdco was able to identify 44 Eccles, which was not publicly listed for sale, but had been previously listed and it met Cornerstone’s needs and is close to another existing Cornerstone building so it is easier to operate both. Cornerstone was able to conditionally purchase the building in summer 2021 and soon afterwards the CMHC RHI Round #2 was released, Cornerstone applied and was successful.

Conversion projects are complex and require far more diligence in design but they often yield a homier feel. That’s immediately apparent upon entering the four-story Eccles Street redevelopment. Beyond the traditional façade, original elements are scattered throughout, with broad staircases, classic railings and of course the entire structure still in place. Every one of the 46 studio units is starting to feel like home, with kitchens, appliances and nearly all finishes in place. In the coming months, this development will house women and gender-diverse individuals, with 30% of the units designated for indigenous .

The building has never looked better, but it’s had some less than photogenic days journey to where it is today. Funding for the project was provided through the CMHC RHI and administered by the City of Ottawa. Secured in May 2022 this financial support kickstarted the retrofit with a massive demolition effort that September. Most of the interior features were removed, making way for a new layout with 14 generous units on each floor and Cornerstone’s operation spaces on the main level. The clean slate approach allows a repeatable floor plan for each unit to have a dedicated kitchen and bathroom. Most units are directly in alignment with the units above, much like an efficient new construction project. The natural grading of the site yielded several barrier-free units through a new zero-threshold entrance on the main floor. Resident services are located down the hall, with access to the new elevator and stairs. The rear doors open up into a comfortable outdoor space, exiting off a shared room on the main level.

As with all our projects we will continue to support Cornerstone Housing throughout the warranty process, beginning next month, to ensure an easy occupancy of the project.  Over the next year, finishing touches are put on and building systems are commissioned. Throughout this year any kinks in the building systems are worked out, allowing for smooth operation in years to come. As a project comes to a close it’s always important to look back at the work that led to the successful creation of 46 critical units in the community.

Panel Discussion: Federal Budget 2024 & Affordable Housing

Join  us at our latest panel discussion on the federal budget and what it means for affordable housing!